In 2013, a World Health Organization’s (WHO) study claimed Monaco to be where men (85.3 years) and women (87.2 years) have the longest life expectancy. In contrast and due in large part to its poverty, Sierra Leone’s life expectancy is barely half that of Monaco — men and women live on average 47 years and 48 years respectively.
Obviously, economic, physical and social differences between these two countries influence their residents’ overall health or wellness. In fact, a recent summary of wellness research indicates the following aspects are key determinants of wellness:
This recent data clearly supports the WHO’s 1948 holistic definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”
Even more recent Canadian research by Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010, identified higher income levels as resulting in better wellness outcomes while, conversely, lower income levels resulting in poorer wellness outcomes. Furthermore, their 14 social determinants of health listed below continue to prove that wellness is a holistic construct necessitating systemic solutions.
- Income & Income Distribution
- Unemployment & Job Security
- Employment & Working Conditions
- Early Childhood Development
- Food Security
- Social Inclusion
- Social Safety Net
- Health Services
- Aboriginal Status
. . . in all countries — and that includes Canada — health and illness follow a social gradient: the lower the socioeconomic position, the worse the health.
It is fair to say human wellness fits the definition of a globally “wicked” problem in which no one party, healthcare discipline or nation has the capacity to resolve it alone. I think it is also fair to say, given the increasing numbers of mentally ill living in our institutions and on our streets, that we are failing miserably in our attempts to alter these statistics.
A health care system — even the best health care system in the world —
will be only one of the ingredients that determine whether your life will
be long or short, healthy or sick, full of fulfillment, or empty with despair.
The Honourable Roy Romanow, 2004
The staggering nature of dis-ease in Canadian society no longer means we can rest on the laurels of an out-dated belief that Canada is one of the healthiest countries in which to reside. In fact, it is not. Canada has become a laggard with regard to establishing the systemic health policies and structures required for individual and collective well-being. Municipal, provincial and federal jurisdictions in Canada consistently neglect emphasizing the social determinants of health when considering public policies such as universal healthcare, public pensions, housing programs and universal childcare and education. Just these four pillars of a social safety network can begin to provide a foundation upon which greater well-being will flourish. I wonder if any of the current political party platforms has the wherewithal to venture in that direction. If not, then would you consider not voting in their favour?
Keep in mind that what makes a difference about your health is less obvious than you think.
Health = a rewarding job with a living wage.
Health = food on the table and a place to call home.
Health = being able to afford options and opportunities.
Health = having a good start in life/a good childhood.
Health = belonging and inclusion in a community.
What steps are you taking to nurture your wellness? Are you treating yourself or mistreating yourself?