Health and illness should be viewed holistically. When one is healthy, I think they must be so mentally ( feel happy, alive, active, motivated etc. ) and physically, (free of injury, diseases, and pain) because then, they will have a positive outlook on life. The opposite is true of illness. One is ill when one has to endure pain, discomfort, feel sad, and unmotivated. My definitions of health and illness were shaped from experiences and antidepressants, other medication ads on TV, that claimed to enhance life.

Menstruation to me is a healthy state. It is a natural biological process for namely human females, enabling reproduction. If a female doesn’t go through puberty/ experience menstruation, she and her family will be in distress because there’s a dysfunction in her reproductive system. Physiologically her endometrium isn’t shedding and preparing for potential pregnancy. Socially, she may feel like she doesn’t fit in with other females, and psychologically, she may be emotionally distressed because she’s different from other females.  By this course’s definition: she is not healthy because physically, socially, and psychologically she has unwanted variations in the context of social, cultural, and environment.

She may need medical intervention that leads to prescription drugs, surgery, counseling, etc. which categorize her as being sick.

Old Age to me is also a health state. This is another one of those natural processes of life. Things are constantly changing, and the same goes for our cells. After a finite number of replications, our cells will reach their limits and are unable to renew themselves; we will proceed to  aging. We can accelerate this process by not taking good care of ourselves through exposure to radiations, chemicals, and mutagens of sorts. A fortunate person will live through life with minimal doctor visits to alleviate his pain, but he will age gradually anyhow because this is life.

We all want to stay young and live life forever; some people go through the extent of utilizing botox to keep their youth. Still, the older we get, the more diseases we have to cope with. Cancer is more prevalent in elders because throughout their life time, they have come in contact with many sources that abused their body. Old age is not an illness, even though it has illnesses associated with it. This is an exchange for living.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Justin Crane says:

    Hi Thuy-Tien,

    In a broad sense I have to say that I agree with your definitions of health and illness. I too believe that both terms should be defined using a holistic approach, however, I believe your criteria are somewhat inept for a proper definition. For example, there are many days where I feel extremely unmotivated, but I do not consider myself to be ill. Also, there are days when I feel active but I also feel ill. So for your definition of health/illness to be complete I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are varying degrees to which people should feel those emotions, and that each emotion may be present or absent regardless of whether a person is ill or not.

    I agree with you 100% that menstruation is not an illness, and that it is instead a sign of health and fertility in females. Furthermore, I agree with you that failing to menstruate is more indicative of illness or disease than actually experiencing menstruation. However, I’ll play the devil’s advocate here to explain how menstruation may be construed as an illness. I know that some Muslim cultures view menstruation as a disease and when it occurs the female should be avoided until she is “clean.” As silly as this may sound to us, this idea was actually seen in early Western civilization as well. During menstruation women were viewed as, “periodically dangerous” (Whelan, 1975). This just goes to show that different cultures do view illness differently and that one global definition may not suitable, or even possible.

    Elizabeth M. Whelan, Studies in Family Planning (Population Council, 1957), Accessed July 2, 2013,

    • Thuy-Tien Giap says:

      Hi Justin,
      Thank you for the insights.
      You are absolutely right that there are cultural aspects to menstruation.
      I am embarrassed to completely forget about this critical view. What you said reminded me of the Romanians’ own culture, where they would due their laundry (pants vs. shirts) separately, because they viewed pants to be dirty. My own Vietnamese culture has similar practices.
      Thank you,

  2. Katie Peterson says:

    Hey Thuy-Tien,

    I found your post really interesting. I do strongly agree with your definitions of both illness and health, and it seems that with illness you hit pretty strongly on mental illness as well (feeling sad and being unmotivated). At first when I was coming up with my definitions I only considered illness to be a mental condition and a disease to be a physical condition, but I eventually just combined the two in my definition. However, I think the mental states you mentioned are only considered illnesses in their more extreme conditions. Like the comment above me said, there are days when I feel sad and trust me, there are plenty of days where I feel unmotivated, but I wouldn’t consider myself ill. I would consider myself human. However, if somebody lives their life being inexplicably sad and not being motivated to get out of bed in the morning, to me that would be considered an illness. So, I understand your definition and I agree, I just believe the examples you listed are only considered illnesses in the extreme.

    One thing I do completely agree with you on is the fact that menstruation is a healthy thing. In fact, when I saw it on the list it made me laugh. Living in such a modern culture, it’s hard to believe that anyone could define menstruation as an illness. Like you said, to me, menstruation is a sign of good health. It shows that a woman is healthy. If a woman doesn’t menstruate, it either means she is pregnant or in bad health. I looked on the internet for any cultures that either agree with you or disagree, and instead I found an article about a culture that looks at menstruation as an important pass into adulthood. In Hindu and Buddhist cultures, the first time a woman menstruates she is met with celebration. The reason for such celebration is that these cultures view menstruation as a continuation of life, which is pretty accurate. Without it, there would be no reproduction. So, while some cultures view it as a disease and others view it as a normal occurrence, some cultures celebrate it as a continuation of life.

    Davis-Sivasothy, Audrey. “First Menstruation Rituals in Sri Lanka: Evaluating Aspects of the Female Role in Society.” Yahoo!. Accessed July 3, 2013.

    • Thuy-Tien Giap says:

      Hi Katie,
      That’s very interesting that the Hindu and Buddhist celebrate this process into adulthood.
      Thanks for sharing this with me.

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