You should be dancing – yeah!
While watching an episode of the BBC programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ recently I began to reflect on the health and well-being of the participants in this physically demanding show. I was undertaking this reflection while sipping from a small glass of red wine and considering which chocolate from my ‘winter wonderland’ selection would go best with a Merlot.
One of the celebrity contestants on the series had recently fainted during rehearsals as a result of exhaustion, one of the professional dancers had failed to make the series owing to a foot injury sustained while practising, and one of the judges was due to have a hip replacement operation because excessive use of the joint had prematurely worn it out. So what, I reflected, is health and what is well-being?
Health (the noun) is defined in the Oxford online dictionary as “the state of being free from illness or injury”. If this is true then, clearly, Strictly Come Dancing is unhealthy! Well-being is defined as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”. It is easy to argue that having a hip replaced would not make one happy, neither would fainting or a debilitating foot injury, nor would any of these conditions meet the criteria for ‘comfortable’ or ‘healthy’. Sipping a nice wine and/or eating chocolates, on the other hand, meets the requirements perfectly!
Having found a ‘chocolate ganache’ to eat, I considered that, in the absence of injury and being in a very happy place, my own health and well-being were secure.
But the contestants in ‘Strictly’ repeatedly talk of their happiness at being involved in the show; levels of fitness and weight loss are also routinely mentioned; and the joy of dancing seems almost overwhelming for all involved. So, we have to remember that definitions of health and well-being are very subjective, often influenced by individual feelings and experiences. Equally, not all that we enjoy or find pleasurable is necessarily healthy.
Well-being itself is moving from the realm of philosophy and becoming much more of a science. There is a growing volume of research into what contributes to the quality of life and what gives individuals the vitality to get involved in activities that are meaningful. Being ‘at work’ is now widely regarded as a significant contributor to well-being. Work provides a source of activities that are meaningful and engaging, which results in the individual feeling valued, autonomous and competent. Work activities contribute to our store of experiences that build resilience to cope with change or adversity. Therefore, even the difficult times in the working environment (e.g. coping with redundancy) can have a positive element.
People also normally enjoy social interaction – meeting with friends, playing sports, or engaging with work colleagues, and having a sense of ‘relatedness’ to other people. The degree to which this social interaction is supportive forms a considerable part of well-being. While it’s not necessary to address all the finer detail around the subject of well-being, it’s clear that many elements play a role in ensuring that people believe their lives are going well – although the individual importance of each element may vary as individual circumstances change.
Kevin Coley CMIIOSH, Dip2.OSH, EnvDipNEBOSH
Kevin has spent his entire working career involved in health and safety. A NEBOSH Examiner and tutor he enjoys being able to simplify complex situations in order to explain how legislation is applied.