« Health is wealth » – 14th Dalai Lama

As the 14th Dalai Lama said, « Health is wealth ». We can define health as being free of any kind of illness (stress, anxiety, chronic diseases…), feeling happy, or even having a good lifestyle and eating healthy. However, the notion of wealth is more complex as it implies different meanings: we could talk about wealth in terms of money and power, but also in terms of overall happiness and well-being. This raises the question: does health really bring wealth? Although being healthier could mean we could work more and earn more, being wealthy to a certain extent is necessary to be happy. We will then discuss the argument that wealth is necessary but not sufficient to happiness and health, and that wealth can be more than just money.

Firstly, being wealthy largely contributes to good health, as treatments for some diseases (especially chronic ones) can be very expensive. In Africa for example, it is difficult for patients to have access to an AIDS/HIV treatment because of its low availability and the lack of medical staff and infrastructures, researcher Lynne Wilkinson says. In addition to that and across all countries, healthy food is more expensive than junk food. A Harvard study found out in 2013 that eating healthy food costs on average 1,5$ more per day and per person. This leads to a higher rate of obesity among socioeconomically disadvantaged population according to researcher Mayuree Rao. In the United States of America, the price of social security means that some people can’t afford vital treatments such as insulin replacement.

Nevertheless, necessary does not mean sufficient. It is possible to be unhealthy whilst being wealthy if we talk about health as happiness and well-being. Social interaction can improve our mood but being wealthy cannot buy happiness and can even lead to social isolation. A study by the Columbia University even showed that rich children are twice more likely to suffer from mental illnesses compared to the average US population. This is probably linked to higher stress and anxiety due to high expectations and pressure to succeed.

Finally, one thing to consider is that wealth has different meanings. Wealth can rhyme with power and economic success, but also with academic knowledge, or valuable relationships. In this context, the definition of wealth can and will change according to factors such as personality or more broadly, the culture we were raised in. In the United States, wealth is strongly linked to success and fame whereas in India, wealth is a combination of money and a strong family. Thus, it could be possible to be wealthy without money in a culture that favours family, relationships and personal growth.

In conclusion, « Health is wealth » is a statement that is not applicable in many cases because of the high costs of medical treatments, the mental illnesses that can come with being rich or because of the very definition of the words « health » and « wealth ». However, it can be true in some situation, as physical and mental health allow to be more efficient at work and be more successful.

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