Health vs. Wellness — Knowing the Difference but Ignoring the Jargon

Jan 24 · 3 min read

For a long time, health and wellness have been considered the same. In fact, people continue to use the terms interchangeably. Perhaps because of this, ‘health and wellness’ have emerged as a trending duo in consumer markets, and many FMCG and GNC companies are marketing their products under this new umbrella, capitalizing on (both) the trend and the knowledge gap.

Understanding the Difference Between Health And Wellness

That being said, it is critical for us to understand the difference between health and wellness, even if it means getting disillusioned by the range of health and wellness products we have purchased. Knowing the distinction between the two may even help you better understand things like your health benefits and health insurance.

In short, health is a state of being, whereas wellness is the state of living a healthy lifestyle. To delve deeper, the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The maintenance and improvement of health, accordingly, depends not only on external or environmental factors (including the systems of care), but also on the efforts and intelligent lifestyle choices of the person. In other words, it depends on wellness. While the two are highly co-dependent, they are not one in the same.

Wellness, for instance, not only includes physical and mental well-being, but also includes 6 other dimensions, I.e. the spiritual, emotional, occupational, intellectual, environmental and social dimensions. So, if you quit smoking, you’ll definitely be healthier than you were in the past, but not necessarily more well. Since wellness is a more dynamic and active process of growth and pertains to a balance in various aspects of your life, it could very well be that even though you quit smoking, other aspects of your life are still out of balance. Thus, your overall wellness may not have improved at all. Alternatively, if you try to perform daily exercises to promote your physical dimension, engage in healthy relationships to perk up your social dimension, take up a course in a subject of your passion to boost your intellectual dimension, then you are promoting overall wellness.

Is the Jargon really that important?

At the end of the day, being aware of your personal health and well-being and maintaining your motivation to improve it is far more valuable and productive than worrying about the definitions themselves.

The good news is that in today’s digital era, apps like Playpal, Dacadoo, Apple Health, Strava (and many more) are getting us to think about our health and wellness more often in the first place, which is a true starting point of progress.

What do you think is most important? And how do you define health and well-being?

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Ed Yong
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