2006 | 37 | 2 | 61-67
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Human health resources: contribution of psychology to health sciences. Editorial

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The concept of health is one of basic terms in health psychology. But what is health? An answer to this question is only seemingly simple. Various ideas emerge, not mutually exclusive, but creating a picture far from clear.The first thought is a commonsense definition of health as 'an absence of disease'. This apparently obvious statement can hardly be regarded as sufficient, as it does not cover the full range of health, not even in the popular meaning of the term. This is evidenced by what lay persons, neither health professionals nor scientists, think about health. Their ideas are extremely varied. Health is considered either as an objective value, autotelic and fundamental in relation to other values, or as a personal resource. Both these approaches, despite being so different, may justify an expectation that health organizes the individual's behavior aimed at his/ her protection and development. Sometimes it is this behavior, concordant with positive standards of health, that is regarded as the definition of health. Finally, some refer to subjective feelings and define health as wellbeing in a broad sense of this term. At any rate, when speaking about health, laymen point to its positive character, changeability, or even fleetingness. Interestingly, concepts of health proposed by professionals representing health sciences are similarly differentiated and lacking unanimity. As early as in the year 1948, i.e. well over half a century ago, an official definition of health was proposed in the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO). Health is defined there as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely as the absence of disease. This widely known definition is still often cited, especially by representatives of the medical profession. On the other hand, representatives of social sciences dealing with health tend to criticize the classical WHO definition for its idealism, and argue that so defined health is practically unattainable. Moreover, the concept of 'well­being' is criticized as ambiguous. Definitions proposed by social scientists refer to the broad and positive approach to health from the WHO definition, but are dynamically formulated and embedded in an environmental context, which makes them similar to some lay views. Besides, the proposals seem to be influenced by general psychological theories popular at the time of their coining. Health is most often conceptualized there as a process having particular characteristics or as a disposition. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Defining health as a process can be exemplified by Antonovsky's theory (1979). The view regarding health as a process implies that balance must be sought and maintained in the face of demands continually encountered by the individual. This approach is both dynamic and interactive. The health process has a certain course in time, changes in response to encountered
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  • I. Heszen, ul. Bankowa 12a m. 4, 40-007 Katowice, Poland
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