Concepts of health in different contexts: A scoping review

V. P. Van Druten*, E. A. Bartels, D. van de Mheen, E. De Vries, A. P. M. Kerckhoffs, L. M. W. Nahar-van Venrooij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
171 Downloads (Pure)


The rationale of our study was that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health from 1947 which includes “… complete physical, mental and social wellbeing…” does not fit the current societal viewpoints anymore. The WHO’s definition of health implies that many people with chronic illnesses or disabilities would be considered unhealthy and complete wellbeing would be utopian and unfeasible for them. This is no longer uniformly accepted. Many alternative concepts of health have been discussed in the last decades such as ‘positive health’, which focusses on someone’s capability rather than incapability,. However, the question remains whether a general health concept can guide all healthcare practices. More likely, health concepts need to be specified for professions or settings. The objective of our study was to create a structured overview of published concepts of health from different perspectives by conducting a scoping review using the PRISMA-ScR guideline. A literature search was conducted in Pubmed and Cinahl. Articles eligible for inclusion focussed on the discussion or the conceptualisation of health or health-related concepts in different contexts (such as the perspective of care workers’ or patients’) published since 2009 (the Dutch Health Council raised the discussion about moving towards a more dynamic perspective on health in that year). Seventy-five articles could be included for thematic analyses. The results showed that most articles described a concept of health consisting of multiple subthemes; no consensus was found on one overall concept of health. This implies that healthcare consumers act based on different health concepts when seeking care than care workers when providing care. Having different understandings of the concepts of health can lead to misunderstandings in practice. In conclusion, from every perspective, and even for every individual, health may mean something different. This finding stresses the importance that care workers’ and healthcare consumers’ meaning of ‘health’ has to be clear to all actors involved. Our review supports a more uniform tuning of healthcare between healthcare providers (the organisations), care workers (the professionals) and healthcare consumers (the patients), by creating more awareness of the differences among these actors, which can be a guide in their communication.
Original languageEnglish
Article number389
Number of pages21
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • CARE
  • Health
  • Health concept
  • Health definition
  • Health perception
  • Health-related concepts
  • Perceived health
  • Positive health
  • Scoping review


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