Wellness is a measure of a person’s mental and physical health, and is commonly used by therapists, medical doctors, and alternative medicine practitioners to characterize a person’s overall health and well-being.

What is Wellness?
Wellness is often used interchangeable to denote good health or to rate a person’s overall health. However, wellness has broader implications. While health generally refers only to a person’s physical–and sometimes psychological–health, wellness assessments take into account a number of factors that can affect health, such as stable relationships, exercise, nutrition, access to clean water, and the safety and security of a person’s living situation. These factors sometimes predict long-term wellness because, even if a particular issues has not yet affected a person’s wellness, it can eventually.

Wellness is an increasingly popular term in alternative medicine. Holistic practitioners argue that medical doctors generally only treat disease, while holistic medicine addresses the entirety of a person’s lifestyle and attempts to uncover ways in which lifestyle, relationships, and environment contribute to medical issues. Mainstream medicine is increasingly incorporating elements of holistic medicine. Medical doctors, for example, might refer a patient to an acupuncturist or chiropractor, and frequently make recommendations about the ways in which lifestyle can improve overall health.

Wellness in Psychology
The mind and body are not discrete, separate entities, and physical health can affect emotional well-being. A person who gets inadequate nutrition may struggle more with psychological issues, and chronic stress can contribute to a number of physical health conditions. Many therapists and other mental health providers ask their clients wellness-related information and may even make recommendations to improve overall wellness. These recommendations might include exercising, drinking more water, or spending time outside each day.


  1. Health topics – What is wellness? (n.d.). U.C. Davis Student Health and Counseling Services. Retrieved from http://shcs.ucdavis.edu/topics/wellness.html
  2. What is wellness? (n.d.). McKinley Health Center. Retrieved from http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/units/health_ed/wellness.htm
  3. Zimmer, B. (2010, April 18). On Language: Wellness. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18FOB-onlanguage-t.html?_r=0

Last Updated: 08-28-2015

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