The phrase “health is wealth” has a number of different interpretations, with no one necessarily rising to the top as “right.” It can refer to the value or use of things and money, the connection between a person’s goals and physical status or how illness negatively can affect work and income. Other ways of seeing it deal with empowerment, decreased spending and the importance of taking care of oneself.
“Stuff” Doesn’t Matter
One possible interpretation of “health is wealth” is that being free from illness and pain has a richness of its own. In this sense, being sound in body is worth at least as much — or even more than — any material possessions someone can have. Many people like this definition because it reminds them to leave superficiality behind and to look beyond “stuff.” This is probably the most common way people think of the quote, and sometimes people use a variation to make the meaning more clear: “The greatest wealth is health.”
Being Well Helps Dreams
Considering that some things in life are priceless and cannot be bought with money, “health is wealth” might mean that how a person feels mentally and physically ties to the pursuit of goals and dreams. A good example is someone who wants to be a singer or woodwind musician, because these jobs require a person have strong abdominal muscles and an infection-free respiratory system to breathe well. Actors or sports players also need to be free from sickness because their careers depend on the ability to physically move and interact with others. Even temporary goals, such as going to see the ocean, might not be possible if an individual isn’t feeling good.
Wealth Needs to Be Used
A closely related view is that, unless a person is well, it’s hard for him to really enjoy the things he owns. The implication is that money and items essentially don’t have a value unless someone actually uses them. Acquisition or possessions in themselves do not make a person rich.
Physical Status Affects Income
Some people think this phrase means that health strongly influences a person’s ability to work. If a person calls in sick to his employer, for instance, he might lose the income he would have gained for the day, depending on how much sick time the company allows. In the same way, if a person is chronically ill, he might not be able to hold down a job for long, although he might qualify for unemployment or disability benefits. How a person physically feels can limit his income and assets, so health and wealth are always linked and even can be viewed as being the same.
Health Information Has Value
Another way to look at this common quote is that the information about the current condition of someone’s body or staying well is valuable because it is empowering. If a person discovers he has cancer, for example, he and his doctor can discuss what kinds of treatment might be best. He can make an educated decision for himself and remain in control of his own well-being. Often, these choices affect other areas of life. An individual might be more aggressive in getting his estate in order if he knows the time he has left is limited, for instance.
A “Me” Focus Is Okay
To some individuals, “health is wealth” is a reminder to take care of oneself. The idea is that, by getting regular medical care, exercising, eating right and engaging in other beneficial activities, such as meditation, a person is making a type of personal investment. It might not be a financial one, per se, but it does have clearly identifiable returns, such as being freer to socialize. Critics sometimes say that this interpretation encourages a selfish or egocentric viewpoint. Advocates point out that, when a person is not well, it usually is extremely difficult for him to help or give his all to anyone else, and that the building of solid relationships, families and general societies, therefore, has to start with a single person looking inward.
Health and Saving Are Intertwined
In most cases, medical care is not free. When a person takes care of himself, he usually doesn't need to seek treatment as often. That generally translates to a decrease in medical spending, so some people think this phrase means that part of being money smart or wealthy is staying healthy.
Careers Affect the Body
In some circles, the quote is thought to mean that a person’s work, which is usually a main source of wealth, has an influence on both his physical and mental well-being. Someone who is extremely stressed out on the job, for instance, might have problems such as spikes in blood pressure, trouble sleeping or feeling depressed. In the same way, some positions are considered more dangerous than others, such as being a construction worker or policeman instead of an IT specialist. Taking this into consideration, what a person picks in terms of a career cannot really be separated from his health. In fact, many people choose or switch to certain professions specifically because they want to improve how they feel or because they want to avoid injury and disease.