Do We Have a Skewed Definition of Health?


Everyone wants to be healthy, at least to some extent of the term. However, it seems as if society has adjusted the definition of what it means to be healthy or how to achieve this state. This shift has convinced consumers that only through things like costly exercise programs, skin care products, daily supplements, and vitamins we will be able to attain this goal of “health.” I’m here to tell you that this is not the case.

The wellness industry is expected to reach a value of $7 trillion by the year 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute. “Personal Care and Beauty” is the most lucrative segment of the industry, with an estimated value of $955 billion, followed by “Healthy Eating, Nutrition, and Weight Loss” ($946 billion) and “Physical Activity” ($738 billion). Therefore, there is a large monetary incentive for businesses to market and sell wellness products, as people have consistently proven  that they are willing to indulge in such items. To illustrate, about 350,000 members make up the luxury gym franchise Equinox, each of which spends between $185 and $500 per month on membership fees. 

While many of these services and products are marketed to be revolutionary, the majority of them can be achieved by more traditionalistic and simple means. Businesses continue to focus on monetary gains over integrity, skewing the definition of health and pushing the idea that unnecessary measures must be taken in order to obtain this so-called “health.” Many of the said health supplements do not yield the results that they are marketed to achieve. JoAnn Manson, MD at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, expresses that “Many supplements on the market have not been rigorously tested. Very few supplements have shown to be of benefit.” Instead, eating a balanced diet has been proven effective to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but only about one in ten adults eat their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, according to the CDC. If marketing had not convinced consumers that supplements were the key to fixing their health issues, more effective means of optimizing one’s health, such as eating recommended portions of fruits and vegetables, would have more popularity. However, the capitalist agenda that today’s corporations follow erases the prior widespread knowledge of achieving health through simple means. 

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Most people can agree that there exist some basic rules on how to be healthy, some of those being to drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly. These habits are simple yet reliable and are much more feasible for a larger portion of the population than it is marketed to be. Namely, capitalistic influence has made it seem like a training program or premium membership to a gym is necessary for physical fitness. Meanwhile, The Mayo Clinic states that bodyweight exercises can be just as effective as using weights, and running outside is the same, if not better, as using a treadmill. Both of the free options achieve the same results as the costly counterparts, yet are often overlooked. 

Another key issue with the new age of wellness has to do with the exclusion of those in lower economic situations that do not have the disposable income to spare on expensive products and services. The message being relayed is that in order to be healthy, one must be wealthy enough to afford to do so. This is an issue for a plethora of reasons, but largely due to the fact that the approach feeds into class discrepancies now in terms of health and wellness

At the end of the day, health is subjective. Every person is unique, thus unique habits and routines work for different people. For some, going to the fancy gym and taking supplements every day may be how they feel the most healthy and energetic. For others, running in the park and eating whole foods is how they find health. Getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness and gratitude, walking instead of taking a car, being social, and going outside often are other ways to make strides towards your health, but they are all subjective. Not everything is for everybody, and that is okay.

It is crucial to prioritize yourself and your health, both physical and mental. Be wary of the advice you receive from untrusted sources, and be conscious that everything marketed to you has an underlying goal of monetary gain. Listen to your body and find your own balance of health.

Featured image by: Arek Adeoye / Unsplash

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