When people hear the word ‘health’, they almost invariably think of medical conditions and the treatment and prevention of disorders. In this chapter, however, we focus on what leads to good health and wellbeing, examining the individual and social determinants of good physical and mental health. Individual factors associated with good health and longer life expectancy include positive emotions and positive attitudes; having a sense of autonomy, competence, and meaning; and above all, having close social connections. We show that the mind and body always interact – physical health has an effect on mental states, and our mental states effect our physical health and physiology. We show how both physical states, and mental states such as stress can be improved through the foundational skills of mindfulness and compassion towards ourselves and others. Research on the social determinants of health shows populations are healthier when people are free from insecurity, exclusion and deprivation, and can play a full and useful role in their society’s economic, social and cultural life. Taking a whole of society approach to health, and engaging the public in the co-creation of health, are approaches that can optimise health for all.


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