What does it mean to be healthy? Is it as simple as eating “right,” exercising, and weighing a certain amount? I eat “right” and exercise regularly, and I’ve had an autoimmune disease since I was about 10 years old. I also wear glasses. Is that also considered unhealthy? And what about mental health, where does that fit in when we’re talking about being healthy? Is our health simply determined by our waistline? The health and fitness industry sure seems to think so. How many times have you seen a health and fitness billboard or health and fitness ad that tells you that your health is in your hands? Or that if you eat “right” and exercise you will be healthy? Most gyms, bloggers, and celebrities all encourage the same idea, that health is a choice. For years we have all been sold the myth that health is a choice, that our health is largely a product of our own individual choices and personal responsibilities. The media, the entertainment industry, society in general all encourage this. The reality is rarely that simple. There are many factors to consider. There are socioeconomic factors like how much money you have, where you live, what jobs you may have, how much “free time” you have, and what insurance you can afford, if you can even afford it. Then there’s genetics and the environment you grew up in. I could go on and on. The truth is weight is not an indicator of health and health is not an indicator of worth. But at the end of the day most people like believing that health is a choice, because if it is a choice, then “unhealthy” people deserve to be unhealthy. This makes society’s job so much easier. But unfortunately, most people don’t think about the fact that just because they are considered healthy now doesn’t mean they will always be. And when they do get injured or sick, under our current system they may not be able to get proper care.
Currently, with rising medical costs, and an overall trend of fewer employers offering benefits to workers has created a critical blind spot for many American workers and their families. Many more Americans are experiencing severe financial difficulty if they need to miss work due to illness, injury, or pregnancy .
- 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of a disabling condition before they reach the normal retirement age .
- Each year around 5% of working Americans will experience a short-term disability (six months or less) due to illness, injury, or pregnancy .
- 3 out of 10 American adults indicate they can’t pay an unexpected $400 bill without having to carry a balance on their credit card or borrow money from friends, family, or the bank .
- Only 40% of US households have enough in liquid savings to cover at least three months of their recurring expenses, and only 28 percent can cover at least six months .
The struggles experienced by disabled, injured, or sick people might not affect you today but fighting for proper accessibility and inclusivity will help you tomorrow.
If health is a choice, then society gets to neglect its responsibility to accommodate people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, mental health issues, and those who are undiagnosed but struggling. Those of us who aren’t struggling get to ignore all the very necessary changes that need to be made: changes in healthcare, in social safety nets, in building codes, in the language we use, and the way we interact with people with different needs. Those of us who are considered healthy won’t stay that way forever, and when your needs inevitably change, you will be stuck with a system that views “inconvenient” human lives as disposable.
Sources: https://disabilitycanhappen.org/disability-statistic/  https://www.ssa.gov/oact/NOTES/ran6/an2020-6.pdf  https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2020-update-economic-well-being-of-us-households-overall-financial-security.htm  https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/assessing-families-liquid-savings-using-the-survey-of-consumer-finances-20181119.htm