The Different Definitions of Health

Throughout history, doctors have tried to measure people’s health. The idea of “complete health” has evolved in response to changing attitudes about diseases and health. Approximately 617 million people in the world are aged 65 or older. But these definitions are inexact, and a corresponding shift in disease treatment and research has only served to further amplify the gap between what it means to be healthy and what it means to be a long-lived person.


In the past, we looked at health in terms of disease only. Today, however, a newer view has emerged that considers social, psychological, and physical factors. This is called the biopsychosocial model. According to the World Health Organisation, “Health is a state of complete well-being”. This declaration is ambitious and may be too limiting. It is also unhelpful, since it fails to account for the wide range of chronic illnesses and disabilities.

The third definition of health needs to take into account the social, cultural, and economic factors that influence people’s health. First of all, the ‘complete health’ view is unrealistic. No one is in perfect health at all times. This concept of health is also counterproductive, since it fails to take into account the presence of disability and chronic illness. In addition, it tends to be too idealistic and leads to overmedicalisation of our society.

The World Health Organization defines health as the absence of illness or disability. The right to health is a universal human right, which means that any individual can be declared healthy by the medical profession. But as the medical field evolves, more diseases are discovered and treated, and people’s feelings of well-being become increasingly irrelevant. In the context of the modern medical paradigm, people’s experiences and observations of their own behavior are irrelevant. Instead, they only count if their symptoms and behaviour match the criteria established by the medical community.

The third definition of health is the most general. While the first two definitions focus on reducing risk factors and disease, the third version must involve the individuals who are influenced by these factors. These values are important because a high value on health will motivate people to take preventative measures and seek appropriate treatment. In other words, a high value on a person’s wellbeing will encourage them to improve their health. The world’s health is a global phenomenon.

While a complete health definition may seem desirable, this is often a false one. In reality, few people will achieve total wellness. Indeed, if they do, it is unlikely that they will be happy. In this view, health is a state of complete wellbeing. Hence, health is a multifaceted concept that involves not only physical, but mental and social factors. This concept of wholeness, however, does not account for the social, economic, and environmental factors that affect health.