Protective factors for physical and mental health

Here is a list of protective factors for Health, understood comprehensively as integrating both physical and mental health. Some are fundamental for physical health, but ALL are fundamental for mental health (including of course emotional health). Colored violet, protective factors for both physical and mental health; colored blue, mainly mental health protective factors:

  • Good habits (physical & mental health):
    • good nutrition
    • physical activity
    • good rest
    • hygiene
    • control or lack of alcohol & tobacco, other substances…
    • getting health & medical attention / treatment
    • social interaction
  • Availability of basic goods & services — access to “commonwealth”
    • General health (physical & mental):
      • Access to…
        • air quality
        • water availability and quality
        • nutritious diet
        • rest, housing
        • public safety
        • medical attention (general health)
        • dental, obstetric, other specialized medical attention
      • Controlled access to…
        • accident risks, natural phenomena risks, toxic environments, transmitted diseases… (civil protection)
        • weapons
        • substances and other potential sources of compulsive behaviours
    • Mental health:
      • Personal / Professional development: access to…
        • education
        • knowledge
        • occupation
        • trade
      • Environment: access to…
        • public spaces
        • ecology
        • justice
        • aesthetic experience and expression
      • specialized attention: access to…
        • psychological attention
        • psychiatric attention
        • mental health knowledge, literature, practices…


May such a list serve as a starting guide to explore & identify risk factors in specific individuals or populations. Do your own version of risk & protective factors! Where would you place “healthy sex”, for example? This list is inspired by Promoting Mental Health, WHO 2004

~Ricardo Sala, mental health promoter. Mexico City, August 2016

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