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What does "Health is Wealth" Mean?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By kelvinjohn — On Sep 12, 2013

Very informative post and I'd like to say good health is wealth, and for a healthy life we must engage in regular workouts and have a balanced diet meal plan. We need to keep our workout journals, never stop experimenting, note what works for us and measure our progress.

By burcidi — On Feb 17, 2013
@nony-- I never thought of this phrase that way, but you're right! Losing health definitely costs money. Can I include this concept in my "Health is Wealth" essay?
By ddljohn — On Feb 16, 2013

A wise man once said that if you have success, add three 0s to your life. If you have love, then add another three 0s. If you have money, add another three 0s. And if you have health, add 1 to the beginning.

He was trying to say that true wealth is health. You can be the most successful person, you may have the greatest love or the most money. But all of this becomes meaningful only if you have health. Then, you can put 1 in the beginning and it will be 1,000,000,000!

By turquoise — On Feb 16, 2013

I don't think it's possible to realize that health is wealth until we actually experience health problems.

I never felt that health is wealth until I became sick. I was diagnosed with several illnesses simultaneously and it was a major shock for me. Until then, I used to worry over every small thing. After I became sick, I realized that none of this is important. There is a solution to every problem but if I lose my health, I won't be able to do anything.

Health truly is wealth and I hope that people can realize this before they get sick unlike me. The sooner you realize this, the faster you will learn to value and enjoy life.

By jumbo46 — On Sep 27, 2011

Health is a primary asset to all mankind. Health is the real wealth and not just pieces of gold or silver. Money cannot buy you good health. One should take care of one's health and not neglect it just to run after money. As nony says, "Prevention is better than cure."

By hamje32 — On May 09, 2011

@nony - I agree. I’ve known some very well-off people who were sick and couldn’t enjoy life, and some poor people who were radiant in health and so could enjoy the little that they had. Of course I’d rather be healthy and wealthy but if I had to take my pick, I’d choose health for wealth any day.

By nony — On May 08, 2011

When you consider how much money is taken out of your pocket every time you go to the doctor, or pay your insurance premium, or check into the emergency room, you really understand the meaning of “health is wealth.” Health and nutrition are so important for both now and for the future.

They say prevention is the best cure. If Benjamin Franklin were around today he might ay, “Prevention is the best investment.”

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