4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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Contents >> Chapter 4: Health >> Health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing


People with physical or mental illness may, very directly, be suffering pain, discomfort, and/or isolation. Illness also has indirect effects on individual wellbeing. There are costs involved in paying for treatments, and poor health may result in a loss of income. Bouts of ill health may disrupt family life or social networks, or curtail plans for travel, study or career. To the extent that a person's health is limited over the long term, life choices may also be limited. Long term poor health can affect the social capability of an individual, including their ability to interact with the social and government institutions that provide resources, care and support within the community. A common and long held perception is that health is a fundamental ingredient for a happy life, and an important foundation for recovery from misfortune. Certainly the wellbeing derived from a regular income, a comfortable home, a loving family or a good education may be compromised by poor health.


Because all people fall ill at some time during their lives, and become ill or frail in their old age, there will always be a need and obligation for communities to respond to the ill health of community members. Beyond this necessary level of care, the community has a strong interest in optimising the health of its members, as good health assists people to contribute to society in a variety of ways. In addition, health problems represent direct costs to the community, both in terms of financial and human capital. At an extreme level, large scale disease epidemics can threaten social functioning and order. At a more normal level, productivity is affected by working days lost through ill health, and the cost of maintaining health service infrastructures can be considerable.

High levels of good health can be an indication that the social justice goals of a nation or community have been achieved to some degree. Conversely, evidence of poor health within the community in general, or among specific population groups can be a concern, and may reduce optimism within those communities. Families, communities and other elements of society can be affected where poor health is associated with addiction or antisocial behaviours, linking health issues to other areas of social concern such as family and community and crime and safety.

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