The Concept of Wellness

Original Editor - Joseph Ayotunde Aderonmu

Top Contributors - Rucha Gadgil, Kim Jackson and Joseph Ayotunde Aderonmu  

Introduction[edit | edit source]


Wellness is clearly a common concept that is often mentioned in the context of health.[1] Although wellness is a multifaceted active process that culminates in a more successful and fulfilling life, health in itself is a state well being that incorporates physical, mental and social factors[2][3]. This topic discusses wellness as it relates to health.

What is Wellness?[edit | edit source]

The National Institute of Wellness considers wellness to be “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence”. This definition allows a better understanding of wellness, using the following tenets[4]:

  • Wellness is an active process, it is a conscious, self-directed and continuous process of achieving full potentials as individuals.
  • Wellness is directed towards a positive and affirming life
  • Wellness takes into account multiple components, which involves lifestyle, spiritual well-being, mental wellbeing, and the environment.

The World Health Organization defines wellness as “the optimal state of health of individuals and groups”[5]. According to the WHO, wellness has two cardinal concerns, which are the achievement of individuals’ fullest potentials physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and carrying out individuals’ expectation in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings. 

Health Versus Wellness[edit | edit source]


Health is often used interchangeably as wellness, yet, the two concepts have clearly different origins[6]. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”[3]. This definition of health proposes health as not only being the absence of disease, but encompassing a wider scope of the medical perspective of health[7]. Going further, health has its determinants, which consist of social, physical and economical environments, as well as individual characteristics and behaviors[8]. The achievement of stability and enhancement of health goes beyond a requirement of the environmental factors mentioned earlier or even the systems of care, it requires a combination of best lifestyle choices. It is at this point that we begin to see the overlap between wellness and health.

The WHO in 2008 described a dominant holistic perspective of wellness as that which includes the absence of illness and a state of wellbeing[9]. Before this, wellness was broadly visualized only in terms of the absence of negative elements such as diseases and illness, but with the new perspective, wellness takes into record the positive elements as well[10]. Thus, with wellness, an individual is seen from multiple dimensions, to create a holistic perspective.[10]

In summary, to make distinctions between health and wellbeing may seem daunting, but to simplify the task, we see that health is basically a state of being, while on the other hand, wellness is a state of actively living a lifestyle that helps to attain health[4].

Dimensions of Wellness[edit | edit source]

Dimensions of Wellness.jpg

As the understanding of wellness began to shift from programs and circumstances that help to alleviate illnesses or increase health risks, wellness dimensions have been brought to limelight and wellness is being related to quality of life and life satisfaction[10]. It is believed that an improvement in one component of wellness may go on to positively affect the whole person. The following are the dimensions of wellness[4]:

Physical Wellness[edit | edit source]

This dimension of wellness is concerned with cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and so on are involved. Activities that may be carried out to improve physical health involve exercise regimens, diet, close observation of health indices including stressors. It also includes health promotion behaviors and avoiding harmful health behaviors.

Emotional/psychological Wellness[edit | edit source]

This is associated with attitudes and believes about self and life. When a self-view is positive, actions, relationships and autonomy are well influenced. Alternatively, when an individual does not feel in control of their lives, stress results causing a negative impact on wellness.

Social Wellness[edit | edit source]

In terms of social wellness, the interaction of the individual with other people, the community and nature is considered. A report of the World Health Organization stated that ‘being included in the society in which one lives is vital to the material, psychosocial, and political empowerment that underpins social wellbeing and equitable health’[5].

Intellectual/Cognitive Wellness[edit | edit source]

This component of wellness refers to the knowledge acquisition and intellectual activity. When knowledge is acquired, it can be shared and used in developing one’s potentials to improve personal growth and make the society better. A sound intellectual functioning helps to improve an individual’s wellbeing on the overall, influencing behaviour especially for transforming negative health habits into positive ones.

Spiritual Wellness[edit | edit source]

There is a continual process of finding meaning and purpose in life which contributes to wellness. This component of wellness may be found alone or within a community.

Occupational Wellness[edit | edit source]

This is concerned with being able to gain personal fulfilment and satisfaction from paid or non-paid jobs. It encompasses one’s ability to handle multiple roles and being able to supply skills to meet community’s needs.

Environmental Wellness[edit | edit source]

The environment is made up of individuals’ homes, communities, work and nature. Environmental wellness is concerned with the interaction of an individual with the environment on on local and global levels.

Economic Wellness[edit | edit source]

This helps with the assessment of institutional and public policies in order to make them more sensitive to inequalities in the population which can affect the wellness of individuals.

Cultural Wellness[edit | edit source]

This dimension has a subjective impact on wellness. This is seen as individuals living in democratic and individualistic settings with freedoms of choice and individual needs have higher levels of subjective wellbeing than individuals who live in authoritarian and collectivistic cultures.

Climate Wellness[edit | edit source]

This is an emerging dimension of wellness. It assesses the connection between climatic changes and human well-being. It is a new area of research which tends to study the consequences of climate and ecosystem changes on the wellness of individuals. 

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Wellness is an active lifestyle that incorporates several components that affect health (physical, mental and social wellbeing) on a holistic level. These factors are continuously in play to contribute to an individual’s overall state of health and therefore should be understood and properly addressed.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Flynn S, Jellum L, Howard J, Moser A, Mathis D, Collins C, Henderson S, Watjen C. Concepts of Fitness and Wellness. 2018. Available from: https://oer .galileo. Accessed 12 April 2021.
  2. About Wellness. National Wellness Institute. Available from: Accessed 15 April 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19–22 1946.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Stoewen DL. Health and wellness. The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2015 Sept 56(9):983-984.
  5. 5.0 5.1 World Health Organization. Health Promotion Glossary Update. 2006. Available at Accessed 12 April 2021.
  6. 1.       Difference Between Health and Wellness. Available from: Accessed 12 April 2021.
  7. St Claire L, Watkins CJ, Billinghurst B. Differences in meanings of health: an exploratory study of general practitioners and their patients. Family Practice. 1996 Jan 1;13(6):511-6.
  8. World Health Organization: The determinants of health. Available from: Accessed 12 April 2021.
  9. World Health Organization. Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Closing the gap in a generation-health equity through action on the social determinants of health, 2008. Available at Accessed 12 April 2021.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 World Health Organization. Health Promotion Glossary Update. 2006. Available at Accessed 12 April 2021.