This year was census year and last Sunday (March 27th) to be exact, a “snapshot” of the population was taken up and down the country. Besides the slightly mysterious Question 17 which was “intentionally left blank” everything seemed really ordinary and unexceptional. Married? Partnered? Babies? Language? Ethnicity? National identity? Occupation? How many rooms? Train or bus or car or bicycle or foot?
And then I reached the question: How do you rate your health in general?
This isn’t the first census I’ve had to fill in, but I don’t remember ever having been asked that question. In fact, I don’t remember ever having been asked that question on a form, period. Yes, nowadays when you fly into a countries that you need a visa for, they ask if you have a temperature or vomited recently. (Funny, if you don’t need that visa, then you don’t get those questions either.) When I last donated blood, they asked if I had about recent illnesses. And on other forms I’ve been asked to tick if I have a disability or need any assistance. But amongst all the seemingly robotic queries of the census, the request to rate my general health without listing any illness or symptom seemed decidedly non-statistical.
To be honest (and I don’t know what this says about me and my relationship with questionnaires) I found that question to be a nice little surprise, and quite sweet. A nice change from 100 years ago where you were either healthy, a cripple or a lunatic.
The health question is so vague it’s amazing it managed to slip in amongst the other black-and-white clear cut ones. Health, what does it mean to be healthy? The person who recovered from a minor stroke at 45 ten years ago may feel healthier than the 23-year-old who wheezes walking up five flights of stairs due to lack of exercise. Or the workaholic senior manager who goes to the gym every single day and then binge-drinks only on weekends may feel healthier than the senior citizen who rambles in the woodlands at a leisurely pace.
It is a gloriously subjective question in the entire census that is based entirely on your state of mind. Despite talking and breathing health and wellbeing related topics all day long, it took a question in the census for me to stop and think about I rate my general health.
We focus on our aches and pains (or lack thereof) but when was the last time you remembered to think “Actually, I feel quite good”?
Photo credit: Kevin Dooley on flickr
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