Objective, Subjective & Functional Health

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  • 0:01 Health
  • 0:38 Subjective vs. Objective
  • 2:44 Functional
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Health is an important part of life, but did you know that there are many different types of health? Watch this lesson to find out the differences in subjective, objective, and functional health, and how they work together in a person's life.


Gerri has a problem. She's getting older, and things are harder for her. She sometimes feels tired for no reason, and sometimes it feels like her heart is racing and about to burst out of her chest, especially when she's doing something like climbing a flight of stairs.

A person's health is a person's mental and physical condition. But how can someone, like Gerri, measure that? How can she know if there's something wrong with her, or if it's all in her mind? Let's look closer at three types of health measures: subjective, objective, and functional.

Subjective vs. Objective

Gerri's having issues with her heart. She feels like it's racing. She also feels tired a lot, and sometimes her knees ache. So, Gerri decides to go to the doctor to see if there's something wrong with her.

When she's at the doctor's office, he takes her blood pressure and listens to her heart. He also X-rays her knees. Finally, he asks her lots of questions about how she feels, what her symptoms are, and things like that. Gerri's doctor is trying to put together a picture of Gerri's health. In order to do that, he has to collect two types of data: subjective and objective.

Subjective health is how well a person feels. It is called 'subjective' because it is the viewpoint of the 'subject,' or patient. When Gerri tells her doctor that she feels tired, that her knees ache, and that her heart feels like it's going to burst out of her chest, these are all subjective health measures; that is, they are how Gerri feels.

To help round out the picture of Gerri's health and to diagnose her, the doctor also collects information about Gerri's objective health, or how well a person is according to tests and observations by others. When the doctor takes her blood pressure or looks at the X-rays of Gerri's knees, he is looking at objective measures of her health. They are called 'objective' because the tests are not from the viewpoint of the subject; they are from an objective source.

Often, a person's subjective and objective health align. For example, Gerri complains that she feels like her heart is going a mile a minute. When the doctor takes her pulse, he finds that her heart is beating very fast. In that case, her subjective and objective health are the same.

On the other hand, sometimes a person's subjective and objective health don't match up. Gerri feels tired a lot, even when she hasn't done anything difficult. But when the doctor examines her and runs tests, he can't find a reason for why she feels tired. In this case, her objective health is not the same as the subjective health.

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