Can the rich buy healthiness?


If you are very rich, can you buy healthiness?  It’s an interesting question. We know that those with money can afford better ‘medical care’, but can they buy ‘health’?

What if money is no object? How much would you pay to raise your health ‘as high as possible’? Presumably, if you can raise your health as high as possible, you will suffer much less illness. When you do suffer an illness, you will recover much faster. If you can raise your health, you will live longer, healthier, look younger.  What’s not to like?  If I had the money, that’s what I’d want.

But, if I had money, what would I spend it on, to improve my healthiness? There are lots of ‘theories’ of how to improve healthiness. Eat a healthy diet and exercise are the two most often suggested. But what’s the complete list?

From the Hierarchy of Healthicine, we can see the entry points for improving healthiness. The hierarchy contains the layers genetics, nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, minds, spirit and communities. Some of the layers are not available for direct action.  We cannot improve the health of our cells directly, but we can improve our nutrition, on the expectation that it will improve the health of our cells.

RichManWaysToImproveHealthinessIn the image on the left, we can see the entry points for impoving healthiness.  We can improve our nutrition – buying and eating healthier food. We can improve our systems health (our circulatory system, our respiratory system, etc.) by doing exercises specifically designed to improve each are.  We can join a gym and hire a coach, and track the improvements in our body healthiness. We can even hire someone to provide mental exercises that will help ward off the effects of an aging brain.

We can improve our spirits easily – just go out and buy something nice: a new car, a second or third house, a yacht.

We can improve our individual community healthiness through philanthrophy. By giving time, or in our case, money, to selected communities, we can improve our community healthiness, and lift our spirits as well.

In each of the areas, we can find many possible ways to improve our healthiness with dollars.  Does that mean it’s possible to buy healthiness with money?

No. There’s something missing. What’s missing? ‘nothing’.

Each of the entry points in the hierarcy has two sides. Health is about balance – you can’t improve your health by eating more and more.  It’s healthy to not eat some foods, and in many cases, its healthy to eat less.  But you can’t buy ‘less’. You can’t buy ‘nothing’. No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy the food required for ‘fasting’.

And it’s not just nutrition that gives us problems.  Exercise – physical or mental – has the same issue. If you are exercising for health, you need to take time out for rest and recovery. If you are working your brain hard through mental exercise, or by living a stessful ‘life on the edge’, or even by partying all the time – the action most needed to improve your health might be sleep. But you can’t ‘buy sleep’.

Our spirits can be lifted by purchasing nice things, but that lift is only temporary – if we really want to health our spirits we need spiritual exercise, which cannot be ‘bought’.

When we arrive at they layer for community healthiness – the balancing factor is independence. In this case, we can spend money on either side of the balance, but we will find that spending money does not demonstrate independence, rather dependence on money.  And spending money on our communities, or giving money to our communities – our family, our church, our government, etc., will not take the place of active participation in those communities. Just giving money can actually lead to communities that are less healthy. Many people with money wat to think of themselves as ‘rugged individuals’, an important attribute. But independence, and individualism taken to excess can put your health, and the health of those around you ‘out of balance’.

A more complete diagram of the entry points to improve healthiness shows both sides:

WaysToImproveHealthiness2 How much ‘time’ are you prepared to improve your health? How much is your time worth? What are you willing to spend to improve your health? What else are you willing to ‘pay’, or ‘give up’?

Aye, there’s the rub. Frankly, we don’t know what actions might maximize our health.

And even if we decide on some specific actions, whether they be expensive or not – after three months, or three years, we will have no idea if our health has improved! We might think we are healthier. We might guess that we are healthier. But there is no science. We have many theories of illness, but none of healthiness.

If we lose weight, are we healthier? There are many ways to lose weight that are ‘unhealthy’. Maybe for some people, losing weight is healthy, but for others – there is little point in losing weight.

amazonBookImgeAre rich people healthier? We know that rich people tend to live longer. Is that because they are healthier, or is it because they can afford better medicines when they are sick? Frankly, we don’t know. We might assume that rich people are healthier, in general. But we have no way to know for certain. We don’t measure healthiness.

The concepts in this post are an expansion of the ideas in the book:
Healthicine, the Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness.

to your health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

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