The definition of Health is actually a bit vague; however it is usually described as a condition of the body that is not only of biological, but also of emotional, mental and social importance. It is the state in which one’s physical and emotional health are at their optimum. In this sense, it is not merely physical health, since it also encompasses one’s mental health.
The determinants of health, as the name suggests, are underlying conditions or forces that bring about the good health state. These determinants can be social, psychological or biological. However, these three elements are often intertwined and form part of a complex interplay. Hence, to effectively evaluate health status, it is important to refer to all three. This includes determinants such as genes, lifestyle choices, and environment.
genes are responsible for determining the physical traits of an individual. For example, physical traits such as height and weight, hair color, and skin type are influenced by genes. However, these determinants affect physical attributes, but also social and emotional traits. Thus, even though we can change our genetic make-up through natural selection and thus acquire different physical traits, we may still end up with physical and mental disorders if we continue to live a lifestyle motivated by social pressures and ill-health.
Likewise, while genes determine the physical characteristics, they do not necessarily influence the mental or emotional aspects of a person. Therefore, both environmental and lifestyle choices can have an impact on health. However, the relationship between these two determinants is often stronger than that of the genetic determinants themselves. As an example, the use of tobacco or other tobacco products, alcohol consumption, and overall sedentary lifestyle can all increase the likelihood of gaining a physical illness such as cancer.
Likewise, other factors such as chronic stress, changes in body weight, undernourishment, lack of sleep, and poor diet can have a negative effect on health status. However, these situations cannot be prevented. In some cases, even when we can avoid such problems, our lifestyle choices may still cause us to develop certain health conditions. For example, if we fail to eat a balanced diet and engage in regular exercise, we may still be at risk of developing certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and osteoporosis. Our level of personal responsibility for our health is therefore much more important than the determinants of a person’s health status.
A healthy diet, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced lifestyle can reduce the risks of developing a number of diseases. However, people living in developed countries have very high levels of stress, which may lead to serious health problems. The key therefore, is for people in such countries to adopt a healthier lifestyle and avoid putting themselves at risk of developing a serious illness. If this is achieved, then there is every chance that they will remain physically fit and healthy, and they will also enjoy a higher quality of life.