Public Health and Wellness
The word “health” has a multitude of meanings that range from life itself to death. According to the World Health Organization, “health is a state of full physical, mental and emotional well being and not just the absence of illness and disease.” Numerous other definitions have also been applied to health, sometimes with different intent than to promote a general well being. Some dictionaries define health as the condition of being able to cope with life. Other dictionaries define health as the ability to function normally in the face of emergencies.
In modern times, the focus on wellness has resulted in numerous attempts at defining a comprehensive approach to medical and psychological diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Much debate still occurs over how much psychology can contribute to a more comprehensive approach to wellness. The challenge for psychologists, educators and concerned citizens is to devise a broad spectrum of wellness concepts that would be the foundation for promoting mental health. This discussion continues to rage in much debate both within the field of psychology and in the public health arena.
One area of much debate in the psychological well-being field is the effect of poverty on mental health. According to several studies, poor people are more likely to have higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety and other disorders than those who have greater financial resources. There are many theories regarding the relationship between poverty and mental health. Researchers note that poor nutrition and lack of exercise, environmental toxins, illiteracy and limited exposure to sunlight may contribute to the development of such illnesses as arthritis, cancer and diabetes.
Improving the mental wellbeing of society can have obvious implications on reducing overall illness and death rates. Several studies have revealed that there is an increased risk of death due to heart disease, diabetes and cancer in countries with a high percentage of unhealthy people. Studies have also indicated that physical and mental illness is associated with one another. Patients who suffer from physical illnesses are said to be more prone to developing psychological illness like depression, anger management and other mood disorders. Those who suffer from mental illnesses are often hospitalized or are confined to their homes, causing them to develop higher levels of stress and depression.
Public health experts believe that both physical and mental health can be affected by increasing the rate of physical activity and decreasing the rate of sedentary behavior. They have also suggested that both factors can together lead to a decrease in the rate of illness and mortality. A lot of research has been conducted to evaluate the effect of a low-fat, low-sugar diet on health and wellbeing. The results showed that people who follow this diet have better overall health and live longer than those who did not. It also indicated that a decreased consumption of sugar, fat and salt lead to improved mental wellbeing and lower the prevalence of both physical and psychiatric illness.
Many people suffer from poor mental health, especially with regards to depression. This condition affects a lot of people and is the fifth leading cause of disability globally. It can have serious social and economic consequences for families and individuals alike. It can have devastating effects on health outcomes and life expectancy. In order to prevent the onset of mental health issues and maintain optimum wellness, it is important that we make ourselves aware of our physical health and ensure that we eat a healthy, balanced diet and get regular exercise. All these measures are essential for improving public mental health.