Wellness: The History and Development of a Concept

Both the term and the concept of wellness have a complex past. Some of the ideas that are packed into the term have their origins in nineteenth-century American religious and cultural movements.

(Verfasser: James William Miller)

A definition of the term focussed on active health promotion through lifestyle change emerged in the 1950s and spawned the wellness movement in the 1970s. The term then took on additional meanings as it began to be used as a marketing tool, and as it has since become linked with certain esoteric ideas. This article traces the development of the concept wellness as it moved through these various transformations.


The problem for the scholar that this malleability of the term wellness presents is that it is extremely difficult to define precisely what is meant by it, and therefore to adequately trace its origins. It is really only possible to define the term within a specific context. In the context of the academic health community in the United States, the six-dimensional model of wellness developed by Bill Hettler of the National Wellness Institute will serve as well as any.

The six dimensions are: social, occupational, spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional and include the following precepts:


  • It is better to contribute to the common welfare of our community than to think only of ourselves.
  • It is better to live in harmony with others and our environment than to live in conflict with them.


  • It is better to choose a career which is consistent with our personal values interests and beliefs than to select one that is unrewarding to us.
  • It is better to develop functional, transferable skills through structured involvement opportunities than to remain inactive and uninvolved.


  • It is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant.
  • It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.


  • It is better to consume foods and beverages that enhance good health rather than those which impair it.
  • It is better to be physically fit than out of shape.


  • It is better to stretch and challenge our minds with intellectual and creative pursuits than to become self-satisfied and unproductive.
  • It is better to identify potential problems and choose appropriate courses of action based on available information than to wait, worry and contend with major concerns later.


  • It is better to be aware of and accept our feelings than to deny them.
  • It is better to be optimistic in our approach to life than pessimistic (National Wellness Institute, n.d.).

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