Health and Disease

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Explain definitions of health and illness, using those definitions explain how they account for the experience of health and illness.

Health is a combination of physical, mental, and social well being, and illness is an unhealthy condition of the mind or body. In other words, illnesses can negatively affect total health.

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This particular question is not as simple as many people would first assume. I've been teaching a high school health class for five years, and some students are surprised to find out that health involves a lot more than simply not having an illness. It isn't surprising to me that far too many people have an overly simplistic view of health. If you Google search "health definition" as this question might prompt you to do, Google provides a definition from "Oxford Languages." It defines health as "the state of being free from illness or injury."

The connotation from this definition is that health is freedom from physical ailments. If the body doesn't have some infection or injury, then a person is healthy. That is far too simplistic of a definition and does not call to attention the many other ways that a person could be unhealthy. Any proper health textbook points out that "health" is a combination of physical health, social health, and mental/emotional health. Health is an overall state of well being, and the World Health Organization's definition of health is far more in line with what health is than the simple and quick Google search definition:
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
The World Health Organization's definition points out very clearly that health is more than not having an illness. Even the Merriam-Webster definition of illness is a bit misleading:
An unhealthy condition of body or mind
While the definition does steer a reader toward recognizing that illnesses can affect the body and/or the mind, the definition leaves out social health. Furthermore, the definition points toward an illness being a "condition" rather than a practice. This would mean a person who smokes tobacco products isn't ill or unhealthy until something like throat cancer develops. Smoking isn't a "condition." It's a practice, habit, lifestyle, etc. It may lead to an illness, but smoking tobacco products absolutely negatively affects overall physical health.
When thinking about total health, you need to think about the "health triangle." The health triangle is a very common teaching tool regarding overall health and wellness. The three parts of the health triangle are physical health, mental/emotional health, and social health. All three parts of the triangle are interrelated and can affect the other parts of the triangle. Balance is key. For example, a person could be a world class runner and in peak physical condition. They are disease free and never get sick. Physical health is top notch, but the person spends so much time training that they never have a chance to be social with friends or colleagues after work. Social health is hurt, and it is possible that due to the lack of social interactions that loneliness and feelings of depression become issues. Mental and emotional health is now suffering too. From a narrow definition of health and illness, this hypothetical person is free from illness and physically healthy.
Fortunately, organizations like the World Health Organization are proactively working toward educating people that health is more than not being or feeling ill. As more and more is learned about mental and emotional health, people are becoming more knowledgeable that practicing wellness and being healthy is more than just looking after the body. People are becoming much more able to recognize signs and symptoms of potential mental/emotional illnesses. This knowledge allows people to give help long before something becomes a true illness, and a person's total health is more proactively maintained.

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