Thursday, December 6, 2012

What is Health?

From a personal perspective, good health is feeling somewhere between good and ideal in body, mind, and spirit. All three of these aspects have an integrated effect on my overall experience. I find it somewhat remarkable that although physical health can determine our very existence, it is psychological health that is the most compelling aspect of experience. For example, I have met individuals with exceptionally good physical health, yet because of psychological challenges, they are miserable. On the contrary, I have met individuals in the final stages of terminal illness who have found happiness, peace, and healing, despite physical demise. So, although emphasis has often been placed on physical health, it is apparent to me that, perhaps, psychological health is the governor of the quality of human experience.

Perhaps the most salient aspect of health is the interconnectedness between physical and psychological health and well-being and the implications both have on quality of life. Although physical health wields tremendous influence on psychological health and well-being, in its somewhat reciprocal relationship, psychological health and well-being affect physical health. Although one might question which has the more significant influence, it is certainly fair (in my opinion) to presume they are inextricably connected.

Another remarkable aspect of health, is that in many circumstances, it becomes relative to an individual's culture or context. One might say, we identify and judge health within the context of the domain in which it occurs. For example, it is well-documented that in diagnoses of cancer or terminal illness, individuals make psychological adjustments to accommodate new normals in regard to their health. In other examples, such as in later adulthood, research suggests when individuals perceive themselves as being healthy, they remain in better health than those who see themselves as unhealthy, even when their physical health is identical. Using health in relative terms, individuals may be healthy for their age or healthy in light of their medical circumstances. Nevertheless, although the meaning of health may be somewhat nebulous and changing over the course of the lifespan and various circumstances, the physical body, mind, and spirit seem to have a remarkably powerful relationship.

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