In this article we explore the concept of balance in the context of health. We became interested in balance during a grounded theory study of lay conceptualizations of cancer risk, in which participants were concerned with having a good life, which relied heavily on balancing processes. This led us to the qualitative literature about balance in the context of health, which was large and in need of synthesis. We identified 170 relevant studies and used Thomas and Harden’s technique of “thematic synthesis” to identify key balance-related themes and to develop these into more abstract analytic categories. We found that balance and balancing were salient to people in three health-related contexts: health maintenance, disease or disability management and lay or professional caregiving. In each of these contexts, balance or imbalance could be a state or a process. In addition, those using the word had either an internally- or externally focused orientation to the world around them. Clinicians and public health practitioners might benefit from using these insights in their research and communication.
communication, medical; concept analysis; health and well-being; health promotion; qualitative analysis