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For other uses, see Welfare (disambiguation).

Well-being or welfare is a general term for the condition of an individual or group, for example their social, economic, psychological, spiritual or medical state; high well-being means that, in some sense, the individual or group's experience is positive, while low well-being is associated with negative happenings.

In economics, the term is used for one or more quantitative measures intended to assess the quality of life of a group, for example, in the capabilities approach and the economics of happiness. Like the related cognate terms 'wealth' and 'welfare', economics sources may contrast the state with its opposite.[1] The study of well-being is divided into subjective well-being and objective well-being.


Although there has not been a clear definition established for well-being, it can be defined as “a special case of attitude”.[2] This definition serves two purposes of well-being: developing and testing a [systematic] theory for the structure of [interrelationships] among varieties of well-being and integration of well-being theory with the ongoing[when?] cumulative theory [clarification needed] development in the fields of attitude of related research”.[2] One’s well-being develops through assessments of their environment and emotions and then developing an interpretation of their own personal self. There are two different types of well-being: cognitive and affective.[according to whom?]. Social well being is mentioned in Canadian law.[3]


Cognitive well-being is developed through assessing one’s interactions with their environment and other people. “Welfare economics ultimately deals with cognitive concepts such as well-being, happiness, and satisfaction. These relate to notions such as aspirations and needs, contentment and disappointment”.[4] People tend to assess their cognitive well-being based on the social classes that are in their community. In communities with a wide variety of social statuses, the lower class will tend to compare their lifestyle to those of higher class and assess what they do and do not have that may lead to a higher level of well-being. Whenever someone interprets their needs and wants as to being satisfied or not, they then develop their cognitive well-being.


These are the different levels of affect on well-being: “high negative affect is represented by anxiety and [hostility]; low negative affect is represented by calmness and relaxation; high positive affect is represented by a state of pleasant arousal enthusiasm and low positive affect is represented by a state of unpleasantness and low arousal (dull, sluggish)”.[5] Well-being is most usefully thought of as the dynamic process that gives people a sense of how their lives are going, through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources or ‘mental capital’."or "You may say that it is a state of complete wellness[6]


The correlation between well-being and positive psychology has been proven by many social scientists to be strong and positive. According to McNulty (2012) [7]“positive psychology at the subjective level is about valued subjective experiences”. Well-being is an important factor in this subjective experience, as well as, contentment, satisfaction of the past, optimism for the future and happiness in the present. People are more likely to experience positive psychology if they take in the good things in each experience or situation. Even in the past if a person only focuses on the negative the brain will only be able to recognize the negative. The more the brain has access to the negative, the easier it becomes, because that is what is more memorable. It takes more effort for the brain to remember the positive experiences because typically it is the smaller actions and experiences that are the positive ones. James McNulty's (2012) [7] research examines this idea further. He argues that, “well-being is not determined solely by people’s psychological characteristics but instead is determined jointly by the interplay between those characteristics and qualities of peoples social environments”. When people have well-being, they are experiencing a sense of emotional Freedom[disambiguation needed]. There is nothing negative that is holding them back from experiencing positive emotions. This is true if a person is in a certain setting because it has been demonstrated in previous research that a certain setting can hold a lot of memories for an individual just because of what was shared there and the meaning of it (source?). Therefore, “well-being is often equated with the experience of pleasure and the absence of [pain] over time”.[8] The less psychological pain an individual is experiencing them more he or she is going to experience well-being.

When someone is experiencing well-being, they are also experiencing a few other things. It involves a sense of self-fulfillment, which is the feeling of being happy and satisfied because one is doing something that fully uses your abilities and talents (Merriam-Webster). The feeling of having a purpose in life and connection with others are also contributors to the idea of well-being.[8] When people feel as though they have a [purpose] in the world, they feel like they belong. They feel like they matter.


When talking about the school system, the idea of well-being gets a little foggy. It is argued that school should only be about learning and education but kids learn so much about social skills and themselves in school. When a child feels like they belong they are more likely to perform better in school. As well as being taught an education, they have to learn how to believe in themselves and create a purpose for themselves. If well-being is established in kids at a young age then it is more likely to play a part in their life as they get older. John White (2013) looked at public schools in Britain now and in the past. In the past schools only focused on knowledge and education but now Britain has moved to more of a broader direction. They started a program called Every Child Matters initiative, that seeks to enhance children's well-being across the whole range of children's services.[9]


Subjective well-being is “based on the idea that how each person thinks and feels about his or her life is important”.[10] This idea is developed specifically in a person’s [culture]. People base their own well-being in relation to their environment and the lives of others around them. Well-being is also subjective to how one feels other people in their environment view them, whether that be in a positive or negative view. Well-being is also subjective to pleasure and whether or not basic human needs are fulfilled, although one’s needs and wants are never fully satisfied. The quality of life of an individual and a society is dependent on the amount of happiness and pleasure, as well as human health. Whether or not other cultures is subjective to their culture is based on what kind of culture it is. “Collectivistic cultures are more likely to use norms and the social appraisals of others in evaluating their subjective well-being, whereas those [individualistic] societies are more likely to heavily weight the internal [frame of reference] arising from one’s own happiness”.[11]

Ethnic identity[edit]

Ethnic identity plays a crucial role in someone’s cognitive well-being. Studies show that “both social psychological and developmental perspectives suggest that a strong, secure ethnic identity makes a positive contribution to cognitive well-being”.[12] Those in an acculturated society are able to feel more equal as a human being within their culture, therefore having a better well-being. This is also a crucial aspect when adapting to a new society.

Individual roles[edit]

Individual roles play a part in cognitive well-being. Not only does having social ties improve cognitive well-being, it also improves psychological health.[13] Having multiple identities and roles helps individuals to relate to their society and provide the opportunity for them to contribute more as they increase their roles, therefore creating a better cognitive well-being. Each individual role is ranked internally within a hierarchy of salience. Salience is “the subjective importance that a person attaches to each identity”.[13] Different roles an individual has have a different guidance to their well-being. Within this hierarchy, higher roles offer more of a source to their well-being and define more meaningfulness to their overall role as a human being.


According to Bloodworth and McNamee sports and physical activities are a key contributor to the development of people's well-being. Sports being such a big influence on well-being is conceptualized within a framework. The framework includes impermanence, its hedonistic shallowness and its epistemological inadequacy.[clarification needed] Arguments arise from these that the value of sports needs to be argued so humans can flourish. There can be problems from researching sports effecting well-being because some societies are not able to play sports.[clarification needed] This is a deficiency in studying this sort of phenomenon.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ • As in Journal of Economic Literature Health, education, and welfare JEL: I Subcategories at JEL: I3 - Welfare and Poverty.
       • Adam Smith, 1776. The Wealth of Nations.
       • Partha Dasgupta, 1993. An Inquiry into Well-Being and Destitution. Description and review.
       • David S. Landes, 1998. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Review.
       • Paul Streeten, 1999. "Henry J. Bruton, On the Search for Well Being, and Yujiro Hayami, Development Economics: From the Poverty to the Wealth of Nations," Economic Development and Cultural Change," 48(1), pp. 209-214.
  2. ^ a b Guttman, Levy, Louis, Shlomit (February 1982). "On the definition and varieties of attitude and wellbeing". Social Indicators Research 10 (2): 159. doi:10.1007/bf00302508. 
  3. ^ "Oil and Gas Commission Act, section 3 (a)(i)". Queen's Printer, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Giboa, Schmeidler, Itzhak, David (2001). "A cognitive model of individual well-being". Social Choice and Welfare 18 (2): 1. doi:10.1007/s003550100103. 
  5. ^ Daniels, Kevin (2000). "Measures of five aspects of affective well-being at work". Human Relations 52 (2): 277. 
  6. ^ Editor (2013-07-23). "What is Wellness". Wellness.com.
  7. ^ a b McNulty, James; Frank D. Fincham (February 2011). "Beyond Positive Psychology". American Psychologist 67. 
  8. ^ a b Tamir, Maya; Brett Ford (2012). "Should People Pursue Feelings That Feel Good or Feelings That do Good? Emotional Preferences and Well-Being". American Psychological Association 12 (5): 1061–1070. doi:10.1037/a0027223. 
  9. ^ White, John. "Education in Well-Being". The Oxford handbook of happiness: 540–550. 
  10. ^ Diener, Suh, Ed, Eunkook (2000). Culture and Subjective Well-being. A Bradford Book. p. 4. 
  11. ^ Diener, Suh, Ed, Eunkook (2000). Culture and Subjective Well-being. A Bradford Book. p. 10. 
  12. ^ Horenczyk, Liebkind, Phinney, Vedder, Gabriel, Karmela, Jean, Paul (2001). "Ethnic Identity, Immigration, and Well-Being: An Interactional Perspective". Journal of Social Studies. 
  13. ^ a b Thoits, Peggy (September 1992). "Identity Structures and Psychological Well-Being: Gender and Martial Status Comparisons". Social Psychology Quarterly 55 (3): 237. doi:10.2307/2786794. 
  14. ^ Bloodworth, Andrew; Mike McNamee (August 2012). "Sport, physical activity and well-being: An objectivist account". Sport, Education and Society 17 (4): 18. doi:10.1080/13573322.2011.608948. 

Additional reading[edit]