Disability, health and wellbeing
The relationship between disability, health and wellbeing
The interface between health and illness is complex in the case of disability.
Health, which is an attribute referring to an individual, can also be understood in two ways: as a diagnosis of the biological condition of the body in which any illness can be managed according to guidelines; and, in contrast, as a more holistic concept embracing somatic, psychological and social factors and their interrelationships.
Three points about health formed the basic components of the face validity of WHO’s health measurement strategy:
- that health is a determinant of, but does not coincide with, wellbeing;
- that health is a function of states or conditions of the human body or mind, constituted by the person’s intrinsic capacity to execute specific tasks and actions in a range of domains that capture the full breadth of human functioning; and
- that health is an intrinsic feature of the individual.
It is felt by some that an important part of wellbeing is“self-worth”. Ideally, we would look internally to our motivations when trying to define our self-worth or value but, sadly, human nature can compel us to look externally for such validation. We, therefore, often define our self-worth by how useful we perceive ourselves to be in the context of society, for example how much we are able to contribute to our communities. As doctors, we are even more vulnerable to this persuasion, tending to being highly self-critical and judging our worth in terms of achievements.
Studies have shown that individuals with disabilities are more likely than people withoutdisabilities to report:
- poorer overall health;
- less access to adequate health care; or
- smoking and physical inactivity.
All of these factors can mean that making a contribution to society or ‘making a difference’ in a way that can be measured by others, can be far more difficult as someone with a disability compared to someone without a disability. This can subsequently have a major impact upon our sense of self-worth and value which, in turn, can negatively impact upon our mental health and wellbeing.