Global Definition of Health

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 2019). This definition has been subject to controversy, as it may have limited value for implementation. Generally, the context in which we live our lives is critical for our health and quality of life. It is increasingly recognized that health is maintained and improved not only through the advancement and application of health science, but also through intelligent lifestyle choices and efforts of the individual, as well as larger society.

According to the World Health Organization the main determinants of health include:

  • Social environment
  • Economic environment
  • Physical environment
  • Individual characteristics and behavior
  • Global Indicators of Health

Health indicators are quantifiable characteristics of a population which researchers use for describing the health of a population. Adopting a standard system with reliable measures for defining health is important for global monitoring of changes in health (see Chapter 3 for more about reliability). Researchers using data collected from around the world look for patterns in identifying, preventing, and treating disease. There are three common global health indicators identified by The World Health Organization (WHO) that directly and indirectly measure and monitor global health:

  1. Life expectancy
  2. Infant mortality
  3. Subjective well-being

These three indicators serve as standard measures to assist health professionals working in both developed and developing countries. Each indicator is discussed in greater detail.


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Culture and Psychology Copyright © 2020 by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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