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Understanding Health, Wellness and Illness

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Health
Wordcount: 1692 words Published: 9th Oct 2017

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  • Jonas P. Cruz¹, MAN



Health, wellness and illness are basic terms we encounter in the nursing profession. A lot of authors defined these terms in different way depending on how they’re use. Understanding the centrality of their meaning is very essential to have a better outlook in the nursing profession. This short paper presents definitions and explains these terms for better understanding.

Keyword: Health; wellness; illness

There’s an alarming rate that accounts for health, wellness, well-being, and illness. These terms and definitions do not specify where “health” begins or ends (Patrick, Bush, & Chen, 1973). A deeper understanding to these terms can have a great impact to the nursing practice.

Health and wellness have many definitions and interpretations (Kozier, Erb, Berman, & Snyder, 2004). Nurses must always be acquainted to them in order to determine which plan of care may be given to a specific client. There is no consensus about any definition of health (Kozier et al., 2004). Nightingale (1969) defined health as a state of being well and using every power the individual possesses to the fullest extent. According also to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference in New York which entered into force on April 7, 1948, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Health is a condition on which the integral states of our body function all together to attain an utmost wellness. Further, O’Donnell (2011) defined health as a balance of physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. There must be stability of these in order for our body to function accordingly. There are a lot of definitions related to health. There is knowledge of how to attain a certain level of health, but health itself cannot be measured (Kozier et al., 2004). The terms frequently used to define health include both positive and negative states (Patrick, et al., 1973). An individual is healthy if he functions totally and struggles to achieve an optimal health. He is also healthy if he performs a work individually and enables him to adapt easily into an environment. He can do whatever he wants because he is free from disease and he is not in pain. Health is an unending and changing life process that accounts for our growth and development.

Wellness is a constant course which entails to the recognition of the continuous cycle of life. It is a vibrant unending process of change and experience. According to Anspaugh, Hamrick, and Rosato (2003, pp. 3-7) they propose seven components of wellness such as physical, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, environmental, and occupational, that paves a vital role to chase for an optimal health. Wellness makes our human existence. It makes us definitely aware to function beyond our capabilities. Wellness is a state of well-being (Kozier et al., 2004). An individual is in a state of wellness if the seven dimensions of it functions and interacts together. According to Hood and Leddy (2002, p. 264) as cited by Kozier et al. (2004), “well-being is a subjective perception of vitality and feeling well… can be described objectively, experienced, and measured… and can be plotted on a continuum.” Well-being is only just a constituent of health.

Health and wellness are different. Health refers to the absence of a disease and having a sound body and a sound mind and wellness refers to the state of having a healthy lifestyle and it keeps on harmonizing the different states of health which gives a positive outlook about our lives.

The term illness and disease have a great role in identifying a healthy person from not. Illness is a social as well as physical phenomenon and the existence of a morbid condition does not predetermine a single pattern of response on the part of an individual (Maddox & Douglass, 1973). According also to Kozier et al. (2004), illness is a highly personal state in which the person’s physical, emotional, intellectual, social, developmental, or physical functioning is thought to be diminished. Illness is different from disease. Illness is merely a subjective feeling of being sick and does not pertain to a pathologic processes problem. It is only the individual who can say that he or she is ill. There are individuals who have abnormalities that can be counted as symptoms of a disease but do not feel ill and there are individuals whose body tissues do not demonstrate changes but who feel ill and do not function well (Santorious, 2006). Our body functions consequently in complex patterns. Santorious (2006) further added that there are people who hear voices and might therefore be candidates for psychiatric examination and possibly treatment – but live well in their community and do not ask for nor receive medical care and there is a significant number of people who have peptic ulcers and other diseases, experience no problems, do not know that they have a disease and do not seek treatment for it. Traditionally, medical science has considered illness a strictly organic phenomenon, occasioned by some disturbance of the normal functions of body processes, and ascertainable only by medical observations and interferences (Mechanic, 1959, Spring). With the progress of medicine, individuals who are declared healthy today may be found to be diseased tomorrow because more advanced methods of investigations might find signs of a disease that was not diagnosable earlier (Santorious, 2006). Illness is viral because it cannot also affect us but it can also affect those people who are around us just like our family.

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Each of us has differences in terms of life experiences on how we perceived and respond to it. Nowadays, there are a lot of people who are still healthy even though there are a lot of risk factors that could affect their health and can leads to a disease. This shows that these people keep a good internal and external balance. Some people are vulnerable enough to different unpleasant situations that lead them to develop a disease. Each of us has different adaptations. Health would be a dimension of human existence that remains in existence regardless of the presence of diseases, somewhat like the sky that remains in place even when covered with clouds (Santorious, 2006). Disease is described as an alteration in body functions resulting in a reduction of capacities or a shortening of the normal life span (Kozier et al., 2004). We are on a range of motion, either we end our lives unhealthy or we end it healthy.

Life is a continuous cycle. We need to improve once life by improving once health through health education and health promotion. Health promotion is a way of thinking that revolves around a philosophy of wholeness, wellness, and well-being (Kozier et al., 2004). Health education is merely one of our important responsibility and we must get into it to establish and let our client response to well-being. Health education is interrelated with health promotion because without health education you cannot promote awareness about the various health matters to the public. Many people are aware of the relationship between lifestyle and illness and are developing health-promoting habits (Kozier et al., 2004). They are aware but we must initiate an action to advocate and motivate them to move for the betterment of their lives and health. Nurses still have a great role in promotion of health for all ages in different cultures. A continuous participation and collaboration among the healthcare providers will still be needed to come up with the positive outcomes.


  1. Anspaugh, D.J., Hamrick, M., & Rosato, F.D. (2003). Wellness: Concepts and applications (5th Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Hood, L., & Leddy, S. K. (2002). Leddy and Pepper’s conceptual basis of professional nursing (5th edition). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  3. Kozier, B., Erb, G., Berman, A., & Snyder, S. (2004). Fundamentals of nursing: Concepts, process and practice, 7th edition. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458.
  4. Maddox, L.G. & Douglass, E.B. (1973). Self-assessment of health: A longitudinal study of elderly subjects. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 14(1), 87-93. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/
  5. Mechanic, D. (1959, Spring). Illness and social disability: Some problems in analysis. The Pacific Sociological Review, 2(1), 37-41. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/
  6. Nightingale, F. (1969). Notes on nursing: What it is, and what it is not. Dover Books. (Original work published in 1860).
  7. O’Donnell, M.P., (2011). My Dad: A balance of physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. American Journal of Health Promotion, 25(5), ffmiv-fmvi. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.25.5.iv
  8. Patrick, D.L., Bush, J.W., & Chen, M.M. (1973). Toward an operational definition of health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 14(1), 6-23. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/
  9. World Health organization. (1948). 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.


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