Friday, April 27, 2012

Transforming Health Through Wellness

While traditional health care seems to focus more on treating illness than promoting health, the tides may be turning based on some current work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An April 16 article in the Wall Street Journal, noted that the CDC is using measures of "well-being," which includes mental and physical health, "to develop a more holistic approach to disease prevention and health promotion." "Well-being" as a metric allows us to move beyond biochemical frameworks to include the human factor: having supportive relationships is one of the strongest predictors of well-being. Rosemarie Kobau, a public-health advisor on quality-of-life programs, commented, "Well-being moves us closer to looking at health in a positive sense--as more than the absence of illness." In contrast to our scientific, "facts only" medical point of view, it makes good sense that even a person who is suffering from a particular ailment will be healthier when they focus on personal goals, like being able to be most productive at work and to spend quality time with loved ones, rather than on "comparatively abstract targets like blood sugar levels." People who experience a sense of well-being have fewer hospitalizations, fewer emergency room visits, miss fewer days of work and use less medication, according to studies. It is not surprising that when people experience a greater sense of well-being they are more productive at work and more active in their communities. What figures into well-being? Contentment and happiness. Satisfaction with life. Fulfillment and engagement in activities. Feeling connected to other people and a larger community. All of these things correlate with an absence of "negative emotions" such as depression and anxiety. What is interesting about well-being is that it only correlates modestly with income. The strongest correlation between income and well-being is for people at lower income levels. In the studies, younger and older adults experienced greater well-being than middle-aged adults. Societies that are more economically developed, which lack corruption in government, and offer high levels of trust while providing for citizen's bsic needs for food and health offer greater well-being. Not surprisingly, people who scored high in well-being spent 60% less on health care in a 12 month period of time than people who scored low on well-being. So, take time to slow down, listen to your heart, find and follow what fascinates you and make time to connect with loved ones. These kinds of "simple," yet essential gestures will increase your well-being, and with it, your health. Copyright 2012 Linda Marks