3 ways health is defined around the world

Health can be defined differently across the world, with concepts of disease, mental health and spirituality all affecting the perception of overall health differently. The accumulation of such concepts was collected and analyzed in a July 21 McKinsey report.

In 1948, the World Health Organization defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Over time, that definition has evolved and is different depending on location around the world. To figure out how people view health differently across the globe, McKinsey collected data from 19 countries, surveying more than 1,000 people in each nation.

Here are some key differences and similarities in how health is perceived around the world:

  1. Around 85 percent of respondents view both physical and mental health as extremely or very important. Seventy percent of people view social health as important. Spiritual health was rated as important by 62 percent of people.

  2. Respondents who reported living with a disease didn't necessarily report having bad health, with only 18 percent of them reporting very bad or poor health, suggesting that disease doesn't constrain the definition of health to many. 

  3. Those surveyed from countries with higher levels of life expectancy at birth actually self-reported their health to be lower than others who lived in countries with low life expectancy.

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