What do we mean?

Physical health can be defined as an essential part of overall health of an individual, which includes everything from physical fitness to overall wellbeing.

Health can be defined as a state of complete well-being and physical health as a state of physical well-being in which an individual is mechanically fit to perform their daily activities and duties without any problem.

The context in which an individual lives is of great importance on health status and quality of life. Health is maintained and improved through the advancement and application of health science and through the efforts and intelligent lifestyle choices of the individual and society. According to the World Health Organisation, the main determinants of health include the social and economic environment, the physical environment, and the person’s individual characteristics and behaviours.

More specifically, key factors that have been found to influence whether people are healthy or unhealthy include:

  • Income and social status
  • Social support networks
  • Education and literacy
  • Employment / working conditions
  • Social environments
  • Physical environments
  • Personal health practices
  • Healthy child development
  • Biology and genetics
  • Access to and quality of health services
  • Gender
  • Culture

Health and Wellbeing

Rethink has noted ‘the way we think and feel can cause us to become more prone to illness and disease; people that are highly stressed often find that they have more colds and other minor illnesses; this is because stress over long time periods reduces the ability of our immune system to protect the body.

But the effect on the body of the symptoms of mental illness, along with the side effects of medications such as antipsychotics or antidepressants, can also have an effect on our health. Movement disorders, weight gain and changes to heart function are some of the more extreme side effects experienced by some people, which have the potential to make us physically ill.

It is therefore important to make sure you are aware of the signs of physical health problems that may be associated with certain mental health diagnoses, and that you take active steps, where possible, to look after your health; and there is a lot that you can do.

For these reasons it is very important that the physical health of people is not forgotten alongside mental illness, and this should include educating people about what their illness may mean for their health, what they should look out for and what they can do to help themselves or those they care for.

Managing stress, making sure our lifestyles are healthy through our diet and activity levels, as well as minimising unhealthy behaviours such as smoking or drinking are all things you can do to take positive control over your physical health.

Doctors also have a responsibility to perform regular health reviews in order to check for physical health problems resulting from the medications they are having to prescribe.

Health and Inequality

The Equality Trust notes ‘there are now over 170 studies of income inequality in relation to various aspects of health. Life expectancy, infant mortality, low birth weight and self-rated health have repeatedly been shown to be worse in more unequal societies. These studies have been reviewed in the journal Social Science and Medicine, for more information please take a look at the Income inequality and health publication (PDF, 176kb).

Researchers sometimes disagree about the pathways leading from inequality to worse population health. The most consistent interpretation of all the evidence is that the main route hinges on the way inequality makes life more stressful. Chronic stress is known to affect the cardiovascular and immune systems and to lead to more rapid ageing. Inequality makes social relations more stressful, by increasing status differences and status competition.

Maintaining Physical Health

Physical health is a way to maintain our health and fitness through exercise or life-style activities such as walking, jogging, running, bicycling, doing yoga and feeding our body with the right type of food and drinks.

There are so many ways to maintain and retain physical health which also improves our overall health and thus improves our immunity system and reduces the chance of illness, disease and injury. Also it often helps in faster and better recovery when you have been unwell.

Today a large number of health problems are caused by our unhealthy lifestyle and misuse of technology. Sometimes we are more interested in employing health in our body as if it is a service, instead of adopting a healthy lifestyle which can improve physical health but also makes one feel better.

NHS Choices

NHS Choices is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service that puts you in control of your healthcare.

The NHS Choices website helps you make choices about your health, from decisions about your lifestyle, such as smoking, drinking and exercise, to finding and using NHS services in England.

It draws together the knowledge and expertise of:


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