Health As a Social Concept

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition of “complete physical, mental and emotional well-being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity.” A number of definitions have also been used over the years for medical purposes. The American Medical Association defines health as, “the quality of life developed through the assurance that the person who is healthy will enjoy the benefits of a proper functioning body system and a surroundings supportive of healthful physical, mental, and emotional activities and practices.”

In addition, the WHO notes that “the best way to measure health is the ability of an individual to carry out his essential functions without constraint. “This definition has many social determinants. One important determinant is a person’s attitudes, which include his beliefs and values about himself, his family, and society in general. Attitudes may influence health behaviors or good health care choices.

Other determinants are social support from family members and friends and positive health care experiences and environments. The American Counseling Association views health as, “the improvement of an individual’s quality of life measured over time,” while the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry views it as, “the maintenance of health through the management of mental disorders.” These associations highlight two important aspects of health: psychological well-being and health communication or promotion.


The American Psychological Association defines health communication or promotion as, “the ability to communicate a particular problem in a way that others will be able to understand and respond to it.” This includes the use of verbal as well as nonverbal communications in addition to written communication and visual representations.

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