Definitions of health

Definitions of health2017-04-03T21:24:44+10:00

Technical definitions of health have changed over time and general definitions range from person to person. If you google definitions of health one of the first definitions to come up is:

the state of being free from illness or injury.

However, this definition is very limiting and does not take into account the various dimensions of health and their interaction with each other. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a more full definition of health:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.


This definition from WHO has not changed since 1948 and identifies the physical, mental and social dimensions of health, but still neglects the spiritual and emotional dimensions.

The definitions of health above could easily be simplified to be a state of complete well-being. However, they could also be expanded to say:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Today if you asked anyone they would have a different definitions for health, though many would focus on the physical dimension of health and think of it as the absence of disease or injury, as well as the mental aspects of health. Frequently people leave out the social, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

Check out the video below for a some more subjective definitions of health.

These definitions of health show that there is a general consensus around health as both a physical and mental issue, but there is still more work to be done in order to get the general public to understand that health consists of all five (5) dimensions of health.

[1] Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.