Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “the condition of being healthy; a state of full physical, emotional and social well being and not the absence of illness and infirmity.” A wide variety of terms have been applied to the concept of health, with differing standards applied. One way to view health is through a physiological perspective, which examines the relationship between a person and his or her physical and emotional health. Another approach to health is through a psychosocial perspective, which examines the effects of external factors and how they affect a person’s health. There are also cultural and medical approaches to health, which examine how health relates to society and culture. While these two broad perspectives offer important insights into the definition and advancement of health, they fail to take into account the impact that internal factors have on health, particularly in the field of long term care.
As defined by WHO, “a general quality of life is considered to be the result of good health care and its maintenance.” Although it may seem like a given that good health is a result of receiving appropriate health care, there are several social determinants of health that go beyond the ability to receive health care. These social determinants include aspects such as the social climate in which an individual lives. For instance, if an environment is filled with stress, noise, pollution, and violence, then an individual’s sense of personal well-being may be affected. The presence or absence of these social determinants has been shown to be related to the levels of health-related happiness and distress.
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The physical well-being of an individual has been seen to be influenced by the attitudes, behaviors and circumstances of the people around them. If an individual experiences low self-esteem or experiences shame, they are more likely to develop physical illnesses or be subjected to negative social responses. Individuals who perceive themselves as being obese, unhealthy, and stupid are also more likely to develop illnesses as well as be subjected to negative social responses. Conversely, individuals who perceive themselves as having good health are also likely to develop positive attitudes and be more comfortable living with their illnesses.
There is also a strong relationship between the physical environment and physical and mental health. A physically healthy individual, for instance, will be more capable of handling stress and pain than someone who is mentally ill. Those who attend religious services or who have strong social ties are less likely to develop sicknesses or be hospitalized than those who do not. It has also been found that physical activity has a positive effect on the mood and the physical well-being of an individual. Those who engage in physical activities such as running, walking, gardening, etc. are less stressed, happier, and healthier than those who do not.
When it comes to mental health, there are several areas in which the environment can have a significant impact. Those who suffer from serious depression are more likely to reside in settings characterized by negative social interactions and high levels of stress. Conversely, physically healthy individuals are more likely to develop positive social interactions and low levels of stress. Another factor that impacts the quality of life for those who suffer from mental illness is the availability of professionals who are trained in assisting those with this type of illness. Individuals who are able to receive treatment and who are surrounded by professionals who know how to properly interact with these individuals are more likely to experience a sense of relief from their mental illness as well as a better quality of life.
Public health professionals have identified several indicators that are related to overall wellbeing. These include the presence of physical indicators such as clean air, clean water, and good nutrition; a supportive public health system; and access to health care. Studies have shown that people living in communities that have access to these services have higher levels of physical and mental wellness and fewer incidences of serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. Similarly, those who are exposed to social supports such as volunteer work and local organizations have lower incidence of major illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. Overall, a healthy community can promote good mental health and wellness while simultaneously reducing the likelihood of serious illness in an individual.