What is health and wellness?

Lyn Turton
Nutrition & Dietetics

Health refers to the absence of illness. Wellness refers to not just physical health but emotional, spiritual, social issues also.

Improving your 'health and wellness' generally refers to promoting good health and reducing risk of disease with a holistic approach which takes into account many factors including physical and emotional issues.

Health is the absence of illness, injury or disease.

Wellness is much more than the absence of illness; it is health-promoting behaviors to achieve your full potential.  In other words, wellness is the pursuit of your best possible health and well-being.  It is a conscious choice, self directed and self motivating.

There are different “models” of the parts making up wellness and well-being.  For example, the National Wellness Institute’s model includes ten dimensions:


• Emotional

• Intellectual

• Nutrition

• Occupational

• Physical

• Safety

• Self-Care

• Sexuality

• Social

• Spiritual

The other aspect of wellness is that it focuses on preventative health care; keeping you healthy, as opposed to a traditional health care view that looks only at getting you back to a state where there is no illness or injury. 

The definition of health goes way beyond 'the absence of disease'.  Even the World Health Organization uses a broader definition. 

It is also managing a chronic disease successfully to minimize complications and recurrences.  Healthy people are able to utilize whatever resources are available to them to live their lives on their own terms.  A paraplegic who goes to work every day, supports their family and enjoys being alive is healthy. 

A brilliant professor of mine defines health as functional competence.  Over time, that definition has held up under scrutiny.   

The World Health Organization defines health as "not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being".  Wellness has been defined more as the action an individual takes to meet the above definition of health. 

Wellness incorporates the power of choice, meaning an individual has the ability to take action towards optimal health. The individual creates the proper environment for a healthier lifestyle. There is an understanding that there is no quick fix for optimal health, that the path of health is an infinite journey. To reach an optimal state of health and wellness, the individual appreciates that the body is a three-dimensional being. Body, mind, and spirit are woven together as one. Any action, thought, feeling that one has, will create a rippling effect on not only their body, but in those that surround.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.