Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 385–401 | Cite as

Wellness as virtue: Morality and the pursuit of health

  • Peter Conrad


The interest and participation in health promotion and wellness activities has expanded greatly in the past two decades. The “wellness revolution”, especially in terms of diet and exercise, has been affected by both scientific findings and cultural changes. The paper examines how a particular aspect of culture, the moral meanings of health-promoting activities, contribute to the pursuit of wellness. Based on interviews with 54 self-identified wellness participants at a major university, we examine how health can be a moral discourse and the body a site for moral action. The paper suggests that wellness seekers engage in a profoundly moral discourse around health promotion, constructing a moral world of goods, bads and shoulds. Although there are some gender differences in particular wellness goals, engaging in wellness activities, independent of results, becomes seen as a good in itself. Thus, even apart from any health outcomes, the pursuit of virtue and a moral lifeis fundamentally an aspect of the pursuit of wellness.


Health Outcome Gender Difference Health Promotion Cultural Change Scientific Finding 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Conrad
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyBrandeis UniversityWaltham

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