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Investing in Health Assets

A word cloud of the key words in the article

Where do you invest your time and money and what return on investment are you getting for your health?

In a world driven by economics, we all strive daily to make money. The need to survive increasingly overshadows the apparent indulgence of aspiring to thrive. For some, the pursuit of wealth, or even the appearance of wealth, #latestlambourghini, is a seductive driver. But how many people have crashed and burnt out due to the constant pressure to perform and achieve economically? Well, about 50 to 75 percent of employees, depending on whom you ask.1, 2, 3 And that’s just those who were still left in their jobs.

What if we invested more time and money in our health than our wealth? Tricky question! I’d be a very poor but much healthier (and indeed sexier) version of me if I spent 8 hours a day on health-promoting activities. That’s not feasible in the real world.

Perhaps a shift in focus to what we do invest our time and money in could help balance the books of our energy debt due to constant pay-outs to a job (and financial debts). What will give you a good return on investment for your health and well-being?

Health Assets

Health assets are factors within you and your community that support positive health and well-being. They are the strengths in and around us that can contribute to living a healthier, happier and longer life.4 Or at least a life that is less shit.

Surprisingly asset-based approaches to health entered the healthcare lexicon more than 50 years ago in the early 70s when the psychiatric literature listed personality assets as an important component of supporting mental health.5 However, the dominant healthcare model has been to identify diseases and their risk factors and treat them. In other words, find and fix what’s wrong. The model of Salutogenesis, literally meaning the origins of health, was firstdescribed by Aaron Antonovsky in his 1979 book “Health, Stress and Coping”.6 As a general scholarly concept, salutogenesis focuses on the study on the origins of health and health assets that promote good health as opposed to pathogenesis, the origins and risk factors of disease.6 Find and promote what is strong. More recently Martin Seligman and colleagues in the Positive Health movement has been working to identify health assets as biological, functional and subjective factors that promote good physical and mental health and longevity.4

While research into positive health factors, or health assets, is ongoing, the key drivers of good health continue to be recognised in both public and personal health guidance. Healthy diet, regular physical activity, stress management, restorative sleep, time outdoors and finding something you enjoy doing are increasingly prescribed. Lifestyle Medicine, a term first coined in 1989, is now considered a medical speciality that recognises six fundamental pillars for health gains: healthy eating, mental wellbeing, physical activity, healthy relationships, sleep and minimising harmful substances.7, 8 While the speciality has raised eye-brows for some, the benefits of applying the recommended lifestyle strategies are progressively demonstrated in the evidence-based research literature and clinical guidelines.

Community Assets

The asset-based approach is probably most strongly associated with community development. I wonder if McKnight and Kretzmann were as delighted by the ABCD acronym (for Asset-based Community Development) as I am as a word nerd.9 Their model for sustainable community-driven development has been taught and implemented around the world. I love the often-quoted line from one of their pupils and proponents, Cormac Russell: “Start with what’s strong, not with what’s wrong”.10 Part of asset-based community development is mapping assets within a community so that others can more easily find resources to help themselves. Apart from the obvious health and social care resources, I propose that assets like parks, sports facilities, social cafes, music gigs and outdoor art are all health assets that can contribute to our positive health and wellbeing.

Join Us

As I sit here for the 8th hour of the working day, feeling the ache in my upper back and wondering how on earth I am going to shed these Covid Kilograms, would you join me on an adventure to identify and map health assets within ourselves and our communities so we can invest in what is good for us and share what keeps us well and happy.

(Just purchased a standing desk converter = Health asset)

Join us at for health asset-based approaches to personal, community and environmental upliftment.


1. McKinsey. Employee burnout is ubiquitous, alarming—and still underreported. 2021.

2. Delloitte. Workplace Burnout Survey. 2018.

3. Statista. Share of people who experienced or felt on the verge of burnout Europe in 2021, by country. 2021.

4. The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Positive Health. 2022.

5. Beiser M. A study of personality assets in a rural community. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971 Mar;24(3):244-54.

6. Mittelmark MB, Bauer GF. The Meanings of Salutogenesis. 2016 Sep 3. In: Mittelmark MB, Sagy S, Eriksson M, et al., editors. The Handbook of Salutogenesis [Internet]. Cham (CH): Springer; 2017. Chapter 2.

7. Yeh BI, Kong, ID. The Advent of Lifestyle Medicine. Journal of lifestyle medicine. 2013; 3(1), 1–8.

8. American College of Lifestyle Medicine. What is Lifestyle Medicine. 2022.

9. De Paul Asset-Based Community Development Institute. History. 2022.

10. Russell C. Rekindling Democracy: A Professional’s Guide to Working in Citizen Space. 2020.

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