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This article is about the maintenance of one's personal well-being and health. For a person's assessment of his/her own value and dignity, see Self-esteem.
MeSH D012648
Walking for Health.
Sleep is a fundamental human need

In health care, self-care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.[1]

Some place self-care on a continuum with health care providers at the opposite end to self-care.[2] In modern medicine, preventive medicine aligns most closely with self-care. A lack of adherence to medical advice and the onset of a mental disorder can make self-care difficult.[3] Self-care is seen as a partial solution to the global rise in health care costs placed on governments. The notion that self-care is a fundamental pillar of health and social care means it is an essential component of a modern health care system governed by regulations and statutes.[4]

Self-care is considered a primary form of care for patients with chronic conditions who make many day-to-day decisions, or self-manage, their illness.[5] Self-management is critical and self-management education complements traditional patient education in primary care to support patients to live the best possible quality of life with their chronic condition.[1][5] Self-care is learned, purposeful and continuous.[6] In philosophy, self-care refers to the care and cultivation of self in a comprehensive sense, focusing in particular on the soul and the knowledge of self.

Universal requisites[edit]

There are a number of self-care requisites applicable to all humans across all ages and necessary to fundamental human needs.[6] For example, as humans we need to intake sufficient air, water and food; care also needs to be taken with the process of elimination and excrement. There must be a balance between rest and activity as well as between solitude and social activities.[6] The prevention and avoidance of human hazards and participation in social groups are also requisites. Maturity requires the autonomous performance of self-care duties.[7]

Health maintenance[edit]

Maintaining fitness at an elderly age
Checking blood pressure at home with an electronic sphygmomanometer.
Blood sugar testing for diabetes
Asthma inhalers contain a medication that treats the symptoms of asthma

Self-care includes all health decisions people (as individuals or consumers) make for themselves and their families to ensure they are physically and mentally fit. Self-care includes exercising to maintain physical fitness and promote good mental health, as well as eating well, practicing good hygiene and avoiding health hazards such as smoking and drinking to prevent ill health. The personal responsibility for self-care in the context of preventative medicine was examined with a representative sample of the general public in a Citizens’ Jury, with the title: ‘My health – whose responsibility? A jury decides’.[8]

The benefits of living a healthy lifestyle were analysed in the Caerphilly Heart Disease Study. Evidence showed a risk reduction in chronic diseases (including dementia and cognitive impairment) to be significantly associated with healthy lifestyles.[9]

Self-care is also taking care of minor ailments, long term conditions, or one’s own health after discharge from secondary and tertiary health care. For instances of neck pain, for example, self-care is the recommended treatment.[10]

Patients who are better informed and more educated possess greater motivation for self-care.[2] Individuals conduct self-care and experts and professionals support self-care to enable individuals to undertake enhanced self-care. The recognition and evaluation of symptoms is a key aspect of self-care.[11] The main issues involved with self-care and the onset of illness are medically related such managing drug side effects, emotions and psychological issues, changes to lifestyle and knowledge acquisition to assist in decision-making.[2]

Self-care support has crucial enabling value and considerable scope in developing countries with an already overburdened health care system. But it also has an essential role to play in affluent countries where people are becoming more conscious about their health and want to have a greater role in taking care of themselves.

To enable people to do enhanced self-care, they can be supported in various ways and by different service providers.


Self-care support can include the following:


Massage with robotic massage chairs.

Self-care practices are shaped by what are seen as the proper lifestyle choices of local communities. Health-related self-care topics include;

A lack of self-care in terms of personal health, hygiene and living conditions is referred to as self-neglect. The use of caregivers and Personal Care Assistants may be needed. An aging population is seeking greater self-care knowledge primarily within families connections and with responsibility usually belonging to the mother.[7]


Michael Foucault understood the art of living (French art de vivre, Latin ars vivendi) and the care of self (French le souci de soi) to be central to philosophy. The third volume of his three-volume study The History of Sexuality is dedicated to this notion. For Foucault, the notion of care of self (epimeleia heautou) of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy comprises an attitude towards the self, others and the world, as well as a certain form of attention. For Foucault, the pursuit of the care for one's own well-being also comprises self-knowledge (gnōthi seauton).[16][17]

The self-care deficit nursing theory was developed by Dorothea Orem between 1959 and 2001. The positively viewed theory explores the use professional care and an orientation towards resources.[4] Under Orem's model self-care has limits when its possibilities have been exhausted therefore making professional care legitimate. These deficits in self-care are seen as shaping the best role a nurse may provide. There are two phases in Orem's self-care; the investigative and decision-making phase and the production phase.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alexander Segall and Jay Goldstein (1998). "Exploring the Correlates of Self Provided Health Care Behaviour". In Coburn, David; D'Arcy, Alex; Torrance, George Murray. Health and Canadian Society: Sociological Perspectives. University of Toronto Press. pp. 279–280. ISBN 0802080529. Retrieved 29 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Chambers, Ruth; Gill Wakley; Alison Blenkinsopp (2006). Supporting Self Care in Primary Care. Radcliffe Publishing. pp. 15, 101, 105. ISBN 1846190703. Retrieved 29 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Mertig, Rita G. (2012). Nurses' Guide to Teaching Diabetes Self-management. Springer Publishing Company. p. 240. ISBN 0826108288. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Kollack, Ingrid (2006). "The Concept of Self Care". In Kim,, Hesook Suzie; Kollak, Ingrid. Nursing Theories: Conceptual and Philosophical Foundations. Springer Publishing Company. p. 45. ISBN 0826140068. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "PAtient self-management of chronic disease in primary care". JAMA. 288 (19): 2469–2475. 2002-11-20. doi:10.1001/jama.288.19.2469. ISSN 0098-7484. 
  6. ^ a b c Taylor, Susan G.; Katherine Renpenning; Kathie McLaughlin Renpenning (2011). Self-care Science, Nursing Theory, and Evidence-based Practice. Springer Publishing Company. pp. 39–41. ISBN 0826107796. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Ziguras, Christopher (2013). Self-care: Embodiment, Personal Autonomy and the Shaping of Health Consciousness. Routledge. pp. 14–15. ISBN 1134419694. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Elwood PC, Longley M. My Health – Whose Responsibility – a jury decides. J Epidemiol Comm Hlth. 2010;64:761-4.
  9. ^ Elwood P, Galante J, Pickering J, et al. Healthy Lifestyles Reduce the Incidence of Chronic Diseases and Dementia: Evidence from the Caerphilly Cohort Study. PLOS ONE 2013;8(12)e81877.
  10. ^ "Most Neck Pain Improves with Self-care, Time". HeathCanal. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Palo Stoller, Eleanor (1998). Ory,, Marcia G.; DeFriese, Gordon H., eds. Self-care in Later Life: Research, Program, and Policy Issues. Springer Publishing Company. pp. 24–25. ISBN 0826196950. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Health in Everyday Living Robert Wood Johnson Foundation primer
  13. ^ Website of an Information Prescripton Project in the UK
  14. ^ Website of the Foundation for Assistive Technology
  15. ^ Dominic Tyer (28 August 2013). "UK preparing self-care portal for patients". PMLive. PMGroup Worldwide Ltd. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  16. ^ 18.Foucault M: Technologies of the Self. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press; 1988. As cited by: Thomas J. Papadimos; Joanna E. Manos, Stuart J. Murray (2013). "An extrapolation of Foucault's Technologies of the Self to effect positive transformation in the intensivist as teacher and mentor". Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine. 8 (7). doi:10.1186/1747-5341-8-7. 
  17. ^ M. Foucault: The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the College de France 1981-1982
  18. ^ Laurin, Jacqualine (1994). "Commentary". In Kikuchi, June F.; Simmons, Helen. Developing a Philosophy of Nursing. Sage. p. 27. ISBN 0803954239. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Self-care as health maintenance: