What is the influence of family in health and disease?

Health is an important aspect of a person and good health is needed for one to have a fulfilled life. Health is defined as a state of physical and mental well being. Disease on the other hand is defined as an abnormal condition that affects the function and structure of all or part of a person and is associated with signs and symptoms that lead to reduced overall functioning of the person. The absence of disease or the ability to achieve maximum functionality within the confines of a disease is a component of good health.

The family, as a basic functional unit of society from which every individual emerges plays an important role in the health of an individual. It is therefore an important factor in health and disease.

This influence of the family has been recognized more in recent times and is the thrust of the practice of the family physician or doctor who treats the person within the context of his/her family and family situation or circumstances.

The family influences health in the following ways:

The positive influence of marriage: Marriage which often marks the beginning of a family affects health in positive ways. It is thought to promote mental wellbeing by providing companionship, emotional support, and economic security. This leads to better physical health, psychological well-being, and low mortality in such individuals.

The genetic make-up: The health of an individual and the diseases he/she is prone to can be affected by the inherited genetic make-up of his family. Some diseases like hypertension, diabetes, asthma and some cancers like colon cancer can be inherited by an individual.

Care giver role: The family as a basic unit of society also acts as the caregivers of a sick individual. This role is very important as sick individuals with a poor family structure or support are less likely to recover faster and suffer more consequence of ill health.

Mental support: The family also acts as a source of mental support for an individual. Families that are well bonded and healthy emotionally have a higher tendency of producing a well-balanced, individual emotionally with less likelihood of mental disease. Also if there is a mental health or emotional issue, it is easier to recognize early in such families and help, if necessary sought much earlier.

Lifestyle choices: The family also has another important role to play in the health of an individual as the lifestyle choices they make affect an individual either positively or negatively. For example, a family that consumes a lot of high calorie foods will be more likely to produce obese individuals who will then be predisposed to all the issues associated with obesity. The converse is true if the family adopts a healthier diet and exercises more.

Health behaviors: The health of individuals is also affected by the behaviors of members of the family. An example can be seen in a family where a mother consumes alcohol or smokes while pregnant, this may result in the birth of a child with some medical conditions like fetal alcohol syndrome or other birth malformations. A household with smokers can also expose its members, especially children to some unhealthy effects of passive smoking.

Protective effect in making health choices: The family has also been noted to make influence an individual to make good health choices. Individuals with a family, especially parents have been noted to be more likely to make healthy decisions that lead to disease prevention in order to stay alive for their loved ones. While this is not always the case, it has been found to be a major motivating factor for individuals who want to drop an unhealthy habit and make a lifestyle change for the better.

What are the negative influence of family in health and diseases?

Although family has a lot of positive influences on health, this influence can also be negative

Marital issues: Individuals involved in unhealthy marriages or marriages where unhealthy practices like domestic violence, abuse, and neglect occur are more prone to making very bad health choices, more mental stress and issues with great psychological damage.

Dysfunctional families: Children from such families are more likely not to adapt to society well and be involved in societal vices, anti-social behavior, and unhealthy habits like drug abuse, alcohol dependences, sexual abuse. Such children generally have a lower life expectancy than their peers because of the health and societal consequences of their actions.