I often advocate that complete health is made up of three pillars – physical, mental and social well-being. Health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), as a “State of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
So if we consider ourselves in good health what does that mean?
Think about how important social health is and how you’d feel if you couldn’t enjoy the things that completed you as a person because of a change in your health.
In my opinion, having good health requires all three pillars, think of a table with three legs if one of them breaks what will happen to the table – complete health requires all three factors for a person to have well-being.
WHO first introduced the idea of social health in 1947, from then on the definition of health included social health as an important factor. They illustrated their reasoning as the better an individual’s social health, the better their overall health. As well, studies showed that people were found to live longer and to have a much shorter and simpler recovery when they fall victim to illness if they have a high degree of social health. Researches are now focusing on the affects of social health as we age.
So what is social health from the perspective of our personal profile? There are formal definitions of social health as it relates to society, however, we need to look beyond the formal definition and consider social health on an individual bases, especially as we age. When we are young we don’t think twice when our friends call us up for a get together. But as we age or our loved one becomes ill we tend to shy away from these social events, we need to ask why.
Aging or illness doesn’t mean you need to stop doing the things you’ve always loved to do; it just may require a little modification as to how you do them. Think of a person who’s had a stroke and is confided to a wheelchair who loved going to the Saturday night community dance. Being social and maintaining your social circle along with the activities that make you the person you are is a priceless part of your health and well-being. Heck, after losing your physical ability to a wheelchair you can still maintain your social health by going to the Saturday night dances and showing off your new moves.
In the next month be sure to tune into the Paralympics Games, it just might put things into perspective for you.
Here are three things you should consider to ensure social health is still a big part of your well-being especially as we age, become a family caregiver or lose a loved one:
1. Brainstorm with your loved one how you can still attend your favourite social activity. If there is a will there is a way!
2. Don’t use your health as an excuse, set an example for the next person. And don’t worry about what others may think, they’ll be the ones who will embrace your courage.
3. Open the door take the first step forward and ask for help if you need an extra nudge in the right direct.
Smile, laugh and take pride in your social health, you will definitely feel more complete for it.