Factors Affecting Health and Illness

Physical Dimension

Genetic make-up, age, developmental level, race and sex are all part of an individual’s physical dimension and strongly influence health status and health practices.


a. The toddler just learning to walk is prone to fail and injure himself.

b. The young woman who has a family history of breast cancer and diabetes and therefore is at a higher risk to develop these conditions.

Emotional Dimension

How the mind and body interact to affect body function and to respond to body conditions also influences health. Long term stress affects the body systems and anxiety affects health habits; conversely, calm acceptance and relaxation can actually change body responses to illness.


a. Prior to a test, a student always has diarrhea.

b. Extremely nervous about a surgery, a man experiences severe pain following his operation.

c. Using relaxation techniques, a young woman reduces her pain during the delivery of her baby.

Intellectual Dimension

The intellectual dimension encompasses cognitive abilities, educational background and past experiences. These influence a client’s responses to teaching about health and reactions to health care during illness. They also play a major role in health behaviors.


a. An elderly woman who has only a third-grade education who needs teaching about a complicated diagnostic test.

b. A young college student with diabetes who follows a diabetic diet but continues to drink beer and eat pizza with friends several times a week.

Environmental Dimension

The environment has many influences on health and illness. Housing, sanitation, climate and pollution of air, food and water are aspects of environmental dimension.


a. Increased incidence of asthma and respiratory problems in large cities with smog.

Socio-cultural Dimension

Health practices and beliefs are strongly influenced by a person’s economic level, lifestyle, family and culture. Low-income groups are less likely to seek health care to prevent or treat illness; high-income groups are more prone to stress-related habits and illness. The family and the culture to which the person belongs determine patterns of livings and values, about health and illness that are often unalterable.


a. The adolescent who sees nothing wrong with smoking or drinking because his parents smoke and drink.

b. The person of Asian descent who uses herbal remedies and acupuncture to treat an illness.

Spiritual Dimension

Spiritual and religious beliefs are important components of the way the person behaves in health and illness.


a. Roman Catholics require baptism for both live births and stillborn babies.

b. Jehovah Witnesses’ are opposed to blood transfusions.

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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