It’s a common error to use health and wellness interchangeably. While they are very closely related, these two words have different meanings. That said, they’re very closely related, and you can’t have one without the other. What is the difference between health and wellness? Health is essentially a state of achieving complete well-being in terms of physical, mental, and social. It goes above and beyond the mere absence of disease and infirmities. On the other hand, wellness is an active process through which people make conscious decisions that lead them toward living a more successful life. Now we’ll thoroughly explain the difference between health and wellness. We’ll also discuss how they’re related to one another. We’ll also cover why wellness is important and the effects of health and wellness on one’s quality of life. Read on to learn more about the relationship between health and wellness.
What Is The Difference Between Health And Wellness?
While many use the terms health and wellness interchangeably, they’re two different terms and do not mean the same thing. In the 1940s, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the term health to represent a state when a person has achieved complete physical, mental, and social well-being. It’s not just about having the absence of diseases or infirmities.
This broad definition has received significant criticism for being unattainable due to the use of the word “complete.” However, the critical factor is that it broadens the use of the word health to go beyond just meaning disease-free.
Additionally, the WHO states that the primary determinants of a person’s health include their environment, including its social, economic, and physical aspects. Their characteristics and behaviors also play a significant part in their overall health. Therefore, maintaining and improving health doesn’t just depend on external factors–it also largely depends on the efforts and choices of the individual. In other words, it depends on wellness.
The National Wellness Institute describes wellness as the active process by which people become aware of and make choices that lead them toward a more successful existence. This concept is based on three essential factors:
- Wellness as a process is self-directed, conscious, and evolving.
- Wellness is holistic and encompasses several dimensions.
- Wellness creates a positive and affirming experience.
When looking at the difference between health and wellness, the short explanation is that health is a physical state of being, while wellness is the state of actively living a healthy lifestyle. Health refers to your physical, mental, and social well-being, and wellness strives to enhance that well-being (1, 7).
What Is The Relationship Between Health And Wellness?
It is impossible to have health without wellness and wellness without health. The two have a symbiotic relationship. If you are healthy, you are in a state of living a healthy lifestyle, which means you have wellness. If you have wellness, your healthy lifestyle will lead to being healthy. It’s a cycle that can’t be broken.
If you want to improve your health, you must embrace wellness. It is an active growth process that provides the changes necessary to reach your fullest level of health and well-being. In addition, it’s associated with the active pursuit of activities. You’ll make the choices and lifestyle changes needed to control risk factors that can harm you, focusing on practices that lead to holistic health (5, 7).
Why Is Wellness Important?
Wellness doesn’t focus on just one area or aspect of your life–it’s multidimensional. It’s more than just physical activity and good nutrition. You’ll also have to include positive choices with a sense of fulfillment.
In addition, wellness is holistic. It encompasses you in total, exploring the relationships between the various wellness dimensions. You’ll need to consider how these dimensions are interrelated and can affect one another. For example, if you’re stressed at work, you’ll need to evaluate how that’s impacting the rest of your wellness dimensions. One dimension being affected can throw off all the others. In turn, this can have a negative impact on your health.
On the one hand, you’ll find patients with poor health who seek medical assistance to treat various illnesses. Whereas others work proactively to prevent those illnesses and maximize their vitality. These people choose to adopt lifestyles to improve their health, prevent the onset of diseases, and enhance their quality of life. In this way you can see that wellness is proactive and preventive. It is driven by the individual’s sense of self-responsibility for living a healthy lifestyle (8).
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Many have a limited view of wellness, focusing simply on their physical health. However, it is much more than that. Several important dimensions are all interrelated and must be managed together. They include the following (6):
- Physical: This includes getting appropriate exercise and correct nutrition. In addition, you’ll need to abstain from harmful activities, such as smoking and drugs. You’ll be building healthy habits that will add years to your life.
- Environmental: Having environmental wellness means living in a way that you have harmony with the earth and participating in activities that minimize the harm done to the environment.
- Social: You’ll need to develop good communication skills, intimacy with others, and a support network of friends and family that you can interact with regularly. Social wellness indicates how well you interact within the global community.
- Intellectual: Intellectual wellness involves continuous learning and staying up to date on current events. Minds are like bodies–they need to be continuously stimulated and exercised.
- Emotional: If you have emotional wellness, you’ll be able to express yourself and all your emotions appropriately. You’ll also be able to feel emotions as they arise.
- Spiritual: When you have spiritual wellness, you have a set of guiding principles that help give you direction in your life. You’ll have a sense of meaning and purpose from your commitment to your beliefs.
- Occupational: Occupational wellness allows you to achieve a sense of satisfaction or pleasure in your work. You’ll use your gifts, skills, and talents to gain purpose in your life.
How Are Health And Wellness Related To Quality Of Life?
Quality of life is the level to which you are healthy, comfortable, and able to participate in and enjoy the events in your life. One goal we all share is living happy, healthy lives with those we care about. Because of this, a primary aim of healthcare is improving our quality of life. To achieve this, healthcare workers provide for patients’ physical and mental health. However, health is not the only factor that affects the quality of life. Others include social, educational, housing, and environmental factors.
Improving health and wellness directly correlates to improving one’s quality of life. You’re embracing wellness when you add a healthy diet and regular exercise. These practices lead to a healthier lifestyle and better overall health. The combination will boost your quality of life by making you feel better and allow you to participate more easily in the activities you enjoy with those you love.
Another important factor is avoiding vices. Health and wellness are best developed when you avoid certain activities, such as smoking cigarettes. However, what you put into your body is not the only thing that can negatively affect it. Spending too much time in front of a screen, even if it is your job, can cause harmful consequences. That means you’ll need to find time to get up and away from the screen as much as possible throughout the day.
In these ways, men’s and women’s health and wellness are directly related to their quality of life. When you embrace wellness to boost your health, you directly increase your quality of life (2, 3, 4).
While many confuse the two terms, it’s now clear that health and wellness are not identical. Understanding what is the difference between health and wellness will give you more knowledge about their relationship. Having one without the other is impossible, as they are entirely interdependent. When you become ill, you’ll need to restore your health and wellness to get back on track.
Wellness is essential because it’s a multidimensional, holistic approach that doesn’t just focus on one thing. It considers all aspects of your life to bring about the most successful life you can live. While many have a limited scope of what wellness is, focusing just on physical health, there is so much more to it, making it an essential part of your life.
Health and wellness come together to impact your quality of life profoundly. When you improve your health, you directly impact your quality of life for the better. Focusing on all the dimensions of wellness will lead you to make better decisions that positively affect your health and, in turn, boost your quality of life.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Health and Wellness (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How Does Health Affect Our Quality Of Life? (2022, academyoflearning.com)
- HRQOL Concepts (n.d., cdc.gov)
- Quality of life, well-being and wellness: Measuring subjective health for foods and other products (2016, sciencedirect.com)
- The Relationship Between Wellbeing and Health (2014, assets.publishing.service.gov.uk)
- Seven Dimensions of Wellness (n.d., grcc.edu)
- What Is Health and Wellness? (n.d., medicinenet.com)
- What is Wellness? (n.d., med.umkc.edu)
- What is wellness and why is it important? (n.d., sites.rhodes.edu)