Occupational Health

by Anna Harrington

What are health and well-being?

Meaning of health

A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of ill health and infirmity

Occupational health

Should aim at the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social wellbeing of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and, to summarise, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job.

Meaning of wellbeing

Wellbeing is a state of being with others, where human needs are met, where one can act meaningfully to pursue one’s goals, and where one enjoys a satisfactory quality of life.

Key points

  • All definitions used are quite subjective and are subject to the feelings, interpretations and experiences of the individual.
  • The definition of health is not just ‘an absence of disease and infirmity’, but recognises the physical, social and mental aspects of wellbeing.
  • Occupational health is about how your health affects your work as much as it is about how work affects your health. It also includes affecting the organisational environment to suit the physical and psychological nature of the workforce.
  • Wellbeing is the most poorly understood term and includes feelings of happiness, fulfilment and life satisfaction.

Sometimes definitions of health and wellbeing can clash: for example, someone can do something intrinsically unhealthy, such as smoking, but which makes them happy and therefore gives them a sense of wellbeing.