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Springtime by Émile Vernon, an artistic depiction of seasonal vitality

Vitality (from Middle French vitalité, from Latin vītālitās, from Latin vīta 'life') is the capacity to live, grow, or develop.[1] Vitality is also the characteristic that distinguishes living from non-living things.[2] To experience vitality is regarded as a basic psychological drive and, in philosophy, a component to the will to live. As such, people seek to maximize their vitality or their experience of vitality—that which corresponds to an enhanced physiological capacity and mental state.[3]


The pursuit and maintenance of health and vitality have been at the forefront of medicine and natural philosophy throughout history.[4] Life depends upon various biological processes known as vital processes. Historically, these vital processes have been viewed as having either mechanistic or non-mechanistic causes. The latter point of view is characteristic of vitalism, the doctrine that the phenomena of life cannot be explained by purely chemical and physical mechanisms.[5]

Prior to the 19th century, theoreticians often held that human lifespan had been less limited in the past, and that aging was due to a loss of, and failure to maintain, vitality.[6] A commonly held view was that people are born with finite vitality, which diminishes over time until illness and debility set in, and finally death.[7]


In traditional cultures, the capacity for life is often directly equated with the soul or breath.[8] This can be found in the Hindu concept prana, where vitality in the body derives from a subtle principle in the air and in food,[9] as well as in Hebrew and ancient Greek texts.[8]


According to Jainism, there are ten vitalities or life-principles:

  • The five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing)
  • Energy
  • Respiration
  • Life-duration
  • The organ of speech
  • The mind

According to major Jain text, Tattvarthsutra: "The severance of vitalities out of passion is injury". Because life is to be considered sacred and in every living thing, Jains avoid killing any living creature. They are not only vegetarian, but decline to eat vegetables that grow under the ground because each underground stem contains infinite number of vitalities each of that can potentially grow into full-fledged plants. The table below summarizes the vitalities that living beings possess in accordance with their senses:[10]

Senses Number of vitalities Vitalities
One sense Four Sense organ of touch, strength of body or energy, respiration, and life-duration.
Two sense Six The sense of taste and the organ of speech in addition to the former four.
Three sense Seven The sense of smell in addition to the former six.
Four sense Eight The sense of sight in addition to the former seven.
Nine The sense of hearing in addition to the former eight.
Ten Mind in addition to the above-mentioned nine vitalities.

Vitality and DNA damage[edit]

Low vitality or fatigue is a common complaint by older patients.[11] Low vitality is an early indicator of frailty[clarification needed] and may reflect an underlying medical illness.[11] Vitality level was measured in 2,487 Copenhagen patients using a standardized, subjective, self-reported vitality scale and was found to be inversely related to DNA damage (as measured in peripheral blood mononuclear cells).[11] DNA damage indicates cellular disfunction.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
    • "vitality". Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health (7th ed.). 2003. Retrieved September 28, 2020 – via
    • "vitality". Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
    • "vitality". American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2020 – via
    • "vitality". Collins English Dictionary (Complete and Unabridged, 12th ed.). 2014. Retrieved September 28, 2020 – via
    • "vitality". Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2020 – via
  2. ^ "vitality". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2020 – via
  3. ^ Kark, Ronit; Carmeli, Abraham (2009). "Alive and creating: the mediating role of vitality and aliveness in the relationship between psychological safety and creative work involvement". Journal of Organizational Behavior. John Wiley and Sons. 30 (6): 785–804. doi:10.1002/job.571.
  4. ^ Haber, Carole. "Prolongevity". Encyclopedia of Aging. Retrieved September 30, 2020 – via In the Western tradition, at least since the time of the ancient Greeks, physicians, philosophers, and lay practitioners have advocated diverse means to obtain a long and healthy life.
  5. ^ "Vitality". Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Retrieved September 30, 2020 – via In the case of human beings, controversy has long raged between those who interpret vitality mechanistically as the energy derived from food and oxygen intake and those who support theories of vitalism, a doctrine that the origin and phenomena of life derive from a vital principle as distinct from a purely chemical or physical force.
  6. ^ Haber, Carole. "Prolongevity". Encyclopedia of Aging. Retrieved September 30, 2020 – via Until the nineteenth century, writers often harked backed to a primitive past, when ancient patriarchs supposedly counted their days in centuries rather than years. Pointing to a loss of vital energy as the cause of old age decay, they searched for the means to maintain the body in an active state, uncorrupted by a loss of vitality.
  7. ^ Haber, Carole. "Prolongevity". Encyclopedia of Aging. Retrieved September 30, 2020 – via According to this widely accepted model, at birth an individual was endowed with a finite amount of vitality. During childhood, the body used this vital energy for growth and activity. By adulthood, it did well to maintain its supply. With old age, however, the amount of vital energy was clearly in decline. The obvious result was the elderly individual's tendency toward increasing illness and general debility.
  8. ^ a b Bordo, Susan; Udvardy, Monica. "Body, The". New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Retrieved September 30, 2020 – via For many cultures, spirit is simply "aliveness," the vital principle that animates all living things, from plants to humans, and is itself conceived as a kind of material substance. In both Homer and the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, the words spirit and breath are used interchangeably.
  9. ^ "Vitality". Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Retrieved September 30, 2020 – via Such a view is similar to the Polynesian concept of mana and the Hindu concept of prana, a subtle principle in the air and in food that is transformed into kundalini, energy in the body.
  10. ^ Jain, Vijay K. (2012). Acharya Amritchandra's Purushartha Siddhyupaya. Vikalp Printers. pp. 62–63, 196. ISBN 9788190363945.
  11. ^ a b c Maynard, S.; Keijzers, G.; Hansen, Å.-M.; Osler, M.; Molbo, D.; Bendix, L.; Møller, P.; Loft, S.; Moreno-Villanueva, M.; Bürkle, A.; Hvitby, C. P.; Schurman, S. H.; Stevnsner, T.; Rasmussen, L. J.; Avlund, K.; Bohr, V. A. (2015). "Associations of subjective vitality with DNA damage, cardiovascular risk factors and physical performance". Acta Physiologica. Wiley. 213 (1): 156–170. doi:10.1111/apha.12296. ISSN 1748-1708. PMC 4586176. PMID 24703498.