Syn: morality. The accepted norms and standards of conduct of a society, community, or nation. Some are virtually universal features of human societies, such as prohibition of murder, rape, and incest. Many relate to bonding relationships based on the family and/or on the beliefs and teachings of a religion. Although these tend to remain stable over prolonged periods, they are not immutable. For instance, from at least the 19th century until after about the middle of the 20th century, it was considered immoral for an unmarried couple to live together, but by the late 20th century, it had become commonplace for couples to live together, sometimes for some years before marrying. By the late 20th century, it had become morally acceptable to many Europeans and Americans for homosexual couples to live openly in society. Morals are important determinants of personal and population health, e.g., in rules about sex education and influencing attitudes and practice of public health measures, such as provision of clean needles and condoms for prison inmates, in recognition of the existence in that population of illicit drug use and homosexual relationships that if ignored contribute to the uncontrolled spread of HIV infection.
Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.