“The main thing is to feel good – that’s probably what most people think when they hear or read “Wellness”. Only very few people know the right definition. The word has made it into the general vocabulary of the German language just like fitness. Its actual meaning has largely fallen by the wayside over the last 25 years. A businessman claimed to have invented the word “wellness” and to have protected it under patent law in Germany. However, research by the German Wellness Association quickly revealed that this was a groundless claim. In the Oxford English Dictionary (second edition), the term “wellness” has long been a part of general English usage and, in addition to the definition, one also learns that it is not a modern term:
wellness The state of being well or in good health. 1654 Sir A. Johnston (Ld. Wariston) Diary (S.H.S) II. 197, I … blessed God … for my daughter’s wealnesse.
Thus also later claims, widespread in German-speaking countries, that the term was a neologism, composed of well-being and fit-ness, proved to be a pure invention. Nevertheless, this misconception, which is stubbornly circulated without any evidence, still persists today, even in the current technical literature.
Although the word has been part of the English language for more than 350 years, it has only gained its special significance as a catchword of an international movement through the conceptual work of the American physician Dr. Halbert L. Dunn. His aim was to create awareness for a different understanding of health than the prevailing understanding in the disease-fixed medical system in the USA, but also in the rest of the Western world, and still is today. He presented his ideas in public lectures and it spread in writings written by him, including the main work “High Level Wellness” first published in 1961. It took several years until his trend-setting basic ideas were discovered, further developed and put into practice by critical lateral thinkers of the health care system. All this had its origin in the USA.