Health and Illness Name Institution Abstract The concept of health and illness draws different perspectives in respect to descriptions of each of term and a comparison of the two leads to the general conclusion that health is a positive concept while illness is a negative one…
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Health and Illness Health, illness, psychosocial aspects of health and their interrelations are an area that receives much debate among medical practitioners, psychologists and other stakeholders besides being accompanied by confusion among the public. Questions abound about the difference between health and illness and whether the absence of one translates to presence of the other, whether they are absolute or relative terms and particularly whether health means absence of all diseases in an individual’s body. The role of personal attitudes in disease causation and development in relation to the known psychosocial aspects of health and illness also elicits discussion. This calls for studies into the existing evidence on the entire concept of health, illness and the psychological influences on the two. 1. Health and Illness Before the two concepts can be compared and contrasted, it is important to understand why there is a need to define each of them. Data on morbidity is an important aspect in healthcare systems around the world, and the views of individuals or societies on what health is and what it means to be ill is crucial to epidemiology. Different sections of the society seem to have different perspectives on the two concepts; lay people have their own views not necessarily based on biomedical tenets while even expert opinion appears unresolved. Moreover, illness and health perspectives or traditions impact the decisions of individuals to seek medical care or other alternatives. The patients’ views on health also may have an interesting comparison to what a medical practitioner diagnoses (Unden and Elofsson, 2001). Health is usually defined as a state, meaning that it is absolute rather than relative. In the state of health, one is completely well in terms of physical, social and psychological aspects. This description of health means that absence of diagnosable disease is not the only qualifier to determine whether a person is healthy or not. The other aspect that can be derived from this definition is that health is a positive concept. Illness on the other hand is defined as a state of not being well as self-reported by a patient. It is based on the physical or psychological symptoms that the patient reports and can vary from minor problems to serious ones. Illness is thus a negative concept. However, the health and illness concepts have been understood in several different perspectives. Most people’s understanding is that the two terms have an inverse relationship in that the more there is of one, the less there is of the other. This creates a scenario where health is not viewed as an absolute state and rather much of a relative state. Further perspectives are that health is an entirely different concept unrelated to illness hence definitions such as the capacity of action towards goals that are vital or the possibility of living meaningfully (Wikman, Marklund and Alexanderson, 2004). Van Dalen, Williams and Gudex (1994) explored the views of lay people on the concepts of health and illness. They found that the two concepts were closely related to such individuals, with health being termed as the absence of illness. Other individuals stated that health is the functional capacity of an individual, while other groups related it to fitness. Their study found out that personal health was less related to the
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