The Definition of Health

The WHO definition of health in the 1950s was a clarion call for action on the global stage. Life expectancy in the world was 48 years for men and 53 years for women. Diphtheria and polio were rampant, and infant mortality was a leading cause of low life expectancy. Since then, the world’s definition of health has evolved significantly. Today, the World Health Organisation defines “health” as a state of complete well-being, and stresses that it is not simply the absence of disease.


The concept of health has been discussed for many years and is often defined in quantitative terms, including function and likelihood of disease. These measurements can be found in clinical medicine textbooks or tables of reference values. The examination process itself is likely to include a variety of tests and measurements, some of which are descriptive, others quantitative. Some tests, such as blood pressure and blood glucose levels, may be used to diagnose disease in seemingly healthy individuals. Therefore, it is important to understand the different aspects of health before deciding how best to proceed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) first defined health in 1948. That definition includes the absence of disease, but it has become increasingly difficult to define. According to Huber and colleagues, the WHO definition is no longer fit for purpose and has to be revised. The focus of health should now be on an individual’s ability to manage their health and to adapt to their circumstances. This is called population-based health, and is increasingly the most comprehensive framework for defining health.

In contrast to the WHO definition of health, a more recent definition is more appropriate: ‘complete health’ means a state of optimum physical and mental well-being. Its emphasis on health is no longer based on the absence of disease, but rather on the ability to adapt and manage illness. These attributes are the hallmarks of a healthy person. The current WHO charter is also a model for the discussion of the importance of social participation and social wellbeing.

Moreover, the definition of health is not limited to disease. A person can be healthy if he or she is free from disease. In terms of the World Health Organization, “health” is the absence of illness. It is not only about physical health. It also includes mental and social well-being. The WHO constitution emphasizes that health is a combination of physical and mental well-being. In addition, a healthy body is the one that is free from a disease.

The WHO defined health in 1948 and stated that “health is a state of complete physical and emotional well-being”. While this definition of health is still valid, it does not adequately reflect the realities of today’s society. The WHO definition of health, in contrast to the definition of health today, is no longer the sole determinant of good health. Rather, it refers to the state of well-being as a result of social circumstances.