What does health mean to
• Health means different things to different
people. People who are young, old, disabled
or from different cultural backgrounds all
interpret good health differently.
• Accepted defi nitions of health have changed
over time, from ‘absence of illness or disease’
in the early 20th century to the more current
‘…a resource for everyday life, not the
objective of living. Health is a positive concept
emphasising social and personal resources, as
well as physical capacities.’
• Health has physical, social, mental, emotional
and spiritual dimensions.
• Health is relative. It differs from time-to-time
and from one person to another.
• Health is dynamic. It is constantly changing.
• Health status can be mapped on a
continuum, ranging from optimal health
to death. As health improves it moves up
the continuum and as health deteriorates it
moves down the continuum. This continues
throughout life.
• As people grow and develop their
understanding of health changes.
• An individual’s circumstances can affect their
health as they become infl uenced by the
physical, sociocultural, socioeconomic and
political environments.
• Perceptions of health are shaped by an
individual’s life experiences.
• Health is more likely to be perceived positively
when the basic requirements for self-esteem
and a sense of belonging are being met.
• Perceptions of the health of others can be
infl uenced by stereotypical views, but also
by personal experience of other groups of
• Perceiving health in a positive and holistic
way promotes a positive attitude in the
community to maintaining health.
• The media and peers have a powerful
infl uence on the individual’s perceptions of
health by modelling and promoting both
positive and negative health behaviours.
• A strong sense of belonging to family, peer
group and community is a powerful positive
infl uence on health.
• Perceptions of health can vary greatly
between positive and negative, between
hope and despair, between understanding
and ignorance. An individual who does not
understand the impact of risk behaviours or
is unable to identify the determinants of poor
health is most likely to continue to put their
own health at risk.
• ‘Social construction’ is the process of making
meaning out of personal experience. When
individuals attribute a meaning and a
value to their own health, based on their
own experiences and judgments they are
responding to the infl uence of a range of
social determinants.
• Young people in Australia today enjoy
excellent health status.
• Good health for young people translates to
good health throughout life.
• Areas of health behaviour that can harm or
enhance the health of young people include
overweight, physical activity, nutrition, sun
protection, substance abuse, mental health,
sexual and reproductive health and road
• A relatively small number of risk behaviours
contribute to much of the burden of
disease experienced by young people.
Similarly a relatively small number of
protective behaviours contribute to their
good health.
• When multiple factors interact the effect on
the individual’s health is even greater.