Cultural Heritage and Health: The Impact of Tradition on Physical and Mental Well-Being

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” These words, spoken by the character L.P. Hartley in his 1953 novel of the same name, could not be more true when applied to the subject of cultural heritage and health. The traditions and attachments that people have to their heritage can have a profound effect on their health, both physical and mental. In this essay, I will be assessing the dependence of these traditions on the cultural heritage of people from different cultures.

Starting with the most obvious example, culture can have a huge impact on health. The customs and beliefs of a culture can dictate what kinds of food are considered healthy, what kinds of exercise are considered beneficial, and even what kind of medical care is considered acceptable. For example, in many traditional Chinese medical texts, it is recommended that one eat certain foods for specific health conditions. These include things like ginger for colds, garlic for hypertension, and green tea for general detoxification. Exercise is also seen as an important part of keeping the body healthy in traditional Chinese medicine, with tai chi and qigong being two of the most commonly prescribed forms of exercise.

In Western cultures, on the other hand, the focus is often on modern medicine and technology as the best way to maintain good health. This is not to say that traditional methods are not used at all; home remedies such as chicken soup for colds and honey for coughs are still widely used. However, these are generally seen as complementary to modern medicine rather than as substitutes for it.

Another factor that can influence one’s attachment to tradition is religion. For many people, religious beliefs dictate what they see as acceptable or unacceptable in terms of health practices. For example, Christians who believe in the sanctity of life may be opposed to abortion under any circumstances, while those who believe in reincarnation may be more accepting of it. Muslims who follow the Sunni tradition may consider circumcision to be obligatory, while those who follow the Shia tradition may not.

Family traditions can also play a role in shaping one’s attitude towards health. For example, if a person grew up in a family where home remedies were regularly used, they may be more likely to use them themselves as adults. Similarly, if a person grew up in a family where going to the doctor was seen as a last resort, they may be more likely to only see a doctor when they are seriously ill.

Finally, friends can also have an influence on how attached someone is to tradition. If all of someone’s friends are using modern medicine and technology to stay healthy, they may be less likely to use traditional methods themselves. On the other hand, if all of someone’s friends are using traditional methods, they may be more likely to do so themselves.

So what does all this mean for our understanding of cultural heritage and health? First of all, it is important to remember that there is no single answer to this question; different people will have different attachments to tradition depending on their culture, religion, family background, and social circle. Secondly, it is important to remember that these attachments can change over time; what was once considered normal or acceptable may become abnormal or unacceptable as beliefs and attitudes change. Finally, it is important to remember that these attachments can have both positive and negative effects on health; while they may help some people stay healthy, they may also lead others to neglect their health or to follow unhealthy practices.


Cultural heritage is the legacies of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present, and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. It includes things like historic buildings, monuments, works of art, traditional knowledge and practices, language, and other aspects of human activity and creativity.

Promoting health and wellbeing through cultural heritage can take many forms. For example, it can involve using traditional knowledge to develop new medical treatments or using historic buildings as venues for community events that promote social cohesion. It can also involve more general activities such as teaching people about their history and culture in order to help them appreciate and value their own identity.

The challenges associated with preserving cultural heritage in a globalised world include the risk of homogenisation (the loss of diversity) as well as the challenge of ensuring that heritage is accessible to everyone regardless of social status or economic resources. Opportunities arising from globalisation include the potential for increased understanding and appreciation of different cultures through exposure to their heritage, as well as the possibility for improved conservation efforts through international cooperation.