The Health Triangle: Mental, Social, & Physical Definitons

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Created in 1997 as a project for an Alaska Middle School, the Health Triangle has served as a graph that measures an individual's physical, mental and social health. The creators used an equilateral triangle to represent these aspects of health. Because all sides of this types of triangle are equal, it stresses the equal importance of each of these aspects. In fact, devoting more attention to one particular side, while neglecting the others, can lead to health imbalances.

Mental Health

Mental health is defined and evaluated by our ability to handle the stresses of daily life and maintain a generally cheerful and optimistic attitude about life. In looking at a person's mental health, we need to consider her relationships with friends and family. Some people also include learning abilities when evaluating mental health.

Social Health

A person's real-life social network is a crucial indicator of social health. It pertains to the ability to form positive and supportive relationships with peers. Here, you see a tie-in with mental and physical health. Lack of friends can lead to depression, which can cause physical health-related symptoms. In contrast, a person with a strong network of friends will always have people she can turn to.

Physical Health

Physical health is defined by a person's sleep and eating habits, as well as the amount of exercise they get and their oral hygiene. In evaluating physical health, we look at drug, alcohol and smoking habits and consider whether the person has regular checkups such as breast exams, colonoscopy, skin cancer exams and any other necessary medical exams.

Interaction Between the Sides of the HealthTriangle

All three sides of the Health Triangle are dependent on each other. For example the highly social person who stays out partying all night might not be getting enough sleep. If she is also drinking, taking drugs and smoking, her physical health, and perhaps mental health, will be compromised. In contrast, consider the person who is meticulous about diet and exercise. This person will often neglect socializing with friends for fear of missing a workout. He may avoid having dinner with people because of strict dietary rules. This individual may have excellent physical health, but his social health is inadequate. This can lead to loneliness, which might eventually compromise mental health. Now, consider the older person who is suffering from Alzheimer's. This is a physical disease that may cause learning disabilities, which can have a negative influence on mental health.

Using the Health Triangle

From time to time, it behooves you to look at the different sides of the Health Triangle and use it as a means of evaluating, and possibly changing, your health habits. For example, if your physical health is good, but your social health is less than adequate, consider joining a fitness center and meeting new gym buddies. The Internet makes it easier to catch up with old friends, so consider writing some emails to friends you have not spoken to in awhile. Your support system can help you and your friends keep up with their doctor's appointments and adhere to healthy habits.

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