Dimensions of Health

This entire course is all about health and how to improve it, but first – what is health?  We often see it as just ‘not being sick’, but to be healthy means more than just that.

We define health as a state of complete physical, social and mental wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

From this definition you can see that health has three dimensions – physical, mental and social – which are interrelated and influence each other greatly.

Physical health relates to the efficient functioning of the body and its systems, and includes physical capacity to perform tasks and physical fitness.

Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual:

  • recognises their own abilities
  • can cope with the normal stresses of life
  • can work productively and fruitfully
  • is able to contribute to their community.

Social health involves being able to interact with others and participate in the community in both an independent and cooperative manner.

Some examples of how events can influence all dimensions of health:

Example 1: A 16 year old male is involved in a car accident and breaks his pelvis, rendering him unable to attend school, or play football with the local club he loves.

His physical health is affected by the damage done to his pelvic bones and a loss of fitness, which in turn has prevented him from maintaining social contact at school and football, decreasing his ability to interact with others and have good social health.  His isolation may also reduce his mental health as he may feel lonely and depressed.

Example 2: A 33 year old woman develops depression.

Depression causes feelings of hopelessness, stress and loss of interest in normal activities, negatively impacting her mental health.  This may decrease her desire to exercise or prepare healthy food, leading to weight gain and loss of fitness, reducing her physical health.  Her depression may mean that she isn’t interested in interacting with others and participating in her community, and her moodiness puts a strain on her relationship with her husband, reducing her social health.