Broadening the definition of “health” could improve quality of life, expectation: report

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Adopting a holistic framework for health, encompassing mental, social, spiritual and physical aspects, could lead to increases in life expectancy and quality of life, according to a new report.

The McKinsey Health Institute conducted a global survey of 1,000 respondents in each of 19 countries to understand how communities around the world define health and what factors influence it.

The results showed that all dimensions of health are important and that feeling healthy is not limited to the absence or presence of disease. The findings suggest, according to the report’s authors, that people around the world may be more focused on how to lead full and functioning lives.

health perceptions

Overall, 85% of respondents rated mental and physical health as very or extremely important, while 70% rated social health equally, followed by 62% who rated mental health as very or extremely important.

Across age groups, similar proportions of younger and older respondents rated physical and mental health as important, while older respondents rated social and mental health as less important.

The presence of illness did not always coincide with perceptions of health. More than 40% of those who reported having an illness still felt their health was good or very good, while 20% without an illness said they were in fair, poor or very poor health.

Age also did not correspond to the perception of health. Among 75-84 year olds, 60% reported good or very good general health, while 70% of 18-24 year olds reported the same. In the United States, the results were similar.

Older age groups scored higher than younger groups on some aspects of health, particularly mental health. This finding is consistent with some recent studies that highlight that members of Gen Z report lower levels of mental health, according to the report’s authors.

In most countries, including the United States, higher household income was correlated with higher perceptions of health.


The results showed that family and friends provide the highest levels of health support across countries, genders and age groups, even more so than public or private health systems. Overall, people with a disease reported less health support across all categories.

The survey found that people who reported low levels of health care were more likely to get sick. Other studies in the United States and Australia showed that loneliness, social isolation, and a lack of social support significantly increase the risk of premature death from all causes in older adults.

The authors concluded that by increasing their understanding of health, individuals, companies and countries can achieve gains in life expectancy and quality of life.

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