Health in Wellbeing and Wellbeing in Health

yin-and-yang-152420_1280I recently attended a research showcase at my university, where I heard about the achievements of a diverse range of research groups from across the institute. There were reports about studies into the origins of our universe, human trafficking and musical cultures. Of particular interest to me were the presentations from research groups looking at aspects of health and/or wellbeing. One researcher mentioned the parodox involved in talking about health and wellbeing, as if they are two separate entities. In her opinion, health is part of wellbeing. I completely agree.

The Office for National Statistics in the UK assesses your personal wellbeing by estimating:

  • Life satisfaction
  • The extent to which you feel the things you do in life are worthwhile
  • Happiness
  • Anxiety

Your satisfaction with life depends on your feelings about the condition of your health, relationships, work and environment, amongst other things. So the condition of your health contributes to your personal wellbeing.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined health, since 1948, as,

a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Doesn’t this also suggest that wellbeing contributes to your health?

Of course it does. Health and wellbeing are intertwined and interdependent. Wellbeing has the broader definition, however, encompassing elusive concepts such as happiness, which are not always included in traditional estimations of health. It might be useful to think about wellbeing as a dynamic state, while imagining health as a resource, not unlike the number of lives you might have left in a video game.

So, while your state of wellbeing will influence your store of health (or the number of lives you have left), it is simultaneously affected by that same store of health.