Lack of good health, vitality, and vigor are the most common reasons people visit medical professionals. Unfortunately, there is no reliable method that can be used to measure one’s overall level of health. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has devised some guidelines for hospitals to use; however, these regulations do not apply to the general population.
Most people rely on some subjective assessment to determine their overall good health. The most common way is to assign numbers or grades (on a scale from 0-10) and use subjective descriptions such as “good,” “fair,” and “poor.” Several studies suggest that our mental well-being depends on our physical condition, so many different scales take both aspects of health into account.
One of the most popular is the Health-Utility Index (or HUI), which assigns numbers to a person’s ability to perform certain activities, such as sleeping or shopping. A more comprehensive method uses subjective terms and categories, giving labels such as “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” and “poor.” This is known as a Health-Status Classification system. Both methods consider both physical and mental well-being.
These systems have been criticized because they do not consider that some health conditions are less severe than others, but the people affected by it may feel it is significant. For example, a person who has asthma and takes medication to control it might rate their health as excellent, while someone without that condition could still rate their health as good.
Another popular subjective method of assessing one’s health is the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), which divides people into four categories based on their emotional responses to questions. These categories are low (27-50), moderate (51-70), high (71-90), and optimal (91 or higher). This method is problematic because it does not consider that some conditions may deteriorate slowly, so the results could be biased toward people who have recently recovered from a severe illness.
The most accurate method of measuring one’s health is through objective lab tests, which medical professionals do, yet many people do not have access to this type of assessment. Additionally, some conditions cannot be treated unless they are detected early on.