Factors Affecting Health

   Until recently, health was generally thought of as the absence of disease or illness. People were not considered unhealthy unless they had a physical symptom. Disease and illness were viewed solely as physical problems. Today we know that health is far more than physical well-being and that the roots of infirmity and disease are to be found in all aspects of our lives. Health includes physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The environment and economic and political systems all have an impact on health. The following chart looks at some of these relationships.

(Positive impact is in italics)



Heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers

Lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, low birth-weight infants
High-cholesterol diet
Arteriosclerosis, heart disease
Moderate to heavy alcohol useCirrhosis, mouth cancers, complications of pregnancy, low birth-weight infants
Regular exercise
Reduced risk of heart disease




Prolonged grief/bereavementEarly death from a variety of causes
Emotional well-being
Increased resistance to infection


Lack of close ties with others

Mental illness, respiratory disease, complications of pregnancy, early death from numerous causes



Underutilization of health services

Concept of sin Stress of excessive guilt
Worship, prayer, meditation
Decreased blood pressure, decreased mental stress, increased hardiness


Air pollution

Emphysema, bronchitis, lung cancer

Living near toxic waste dumps Spontaneous abortion
Pesticide exposure Birth defects


Impoverished living conditions

Nutritional disorders, heart disease, diabetes, depression, marital instability

Arrest, torture, execution for political reasonsPossible death
Political interference with relief programsCommunicable diseases, malnutrition, possible death
Oppression, racism
High blood pressure, heart disease among ethnic minorities

Source: Health for All: A Congregational Health Ministries Resource, Health and Welfare Ministries, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church (New York: GBGM, 1997), p. 5. This 160 page (8 1/2" x 11") book is available from the Service Center (1-800-305-9857), order #4573, $6.50 plus postage and handling.