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For other uses, see Welfare (disambiguation).

Well-being, wellbeing,[1] welfare or wellness is a general term for the condition of an individual or group, for example their social, economic, psychological, spiritual or medical state; a high level of well-being means 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. As with the related cognate terms 'wealth' and 'welfare', economics sources often contrast the state with its opposite.[2] 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”.[3] 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”.[3] 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.[4]

A more current definition of wellness and its distinction from health is the following: "Wellness refers to diverse and interconnected dimensions of physical, mental, and social well-being that extend beyond the traditional definition of health. It includes choices and activities aimed at achieving physical vitality, mental alacrity, social satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and personal fulfillment."[5]


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”.[6] 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 could 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.[citation needed]


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)”.[7] 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 sense of their own ‘mental capital’." Or, as has been recorded elsewhere, it could be said that well-being "...is a state of complete wellness".[8]


The correlation between well-being and positive psychology has been proven by many social scientists to be strong and positive. According to McNulty (2012),[9]“...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 with 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 with regard to the past, if a person only focuses on the negative the brain will only be able to recognise 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) [9] 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 people's social environments”. When people experience 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 particular environments 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”.[10] The less psychological pain an individual is experiencing the more he or she is going to experience well-being.

When someone is experiencing well-being they are also experiencing several 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 one's 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.[10] 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 is not as well defined. It is argued that school should only be about learning and education but children also learn about social skills and themselves. When a child feels like they belong they are more likely to perform better in school. As well as accessing an education, ideally they need to learn how to believe in themselves and create 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 a broader direction. Their Every Child Matters initiative seeks to enhance children's well-being across the range of children's services.[11]


“Wellbeing” has traditionally focused on improving physical, emotional and mental quality of life with little understanding of how dependent they all are on financial health.[12] However, financial stress often manifests itself in physical and emotional difficulties that lead to increased healthcare costs and reduced productivity.[13][14] A more inclusive paradigm for wellbeing would acknowledge money as a source of empowerment that maximizes physical and emotional health by reducing financial stress.[13][15][16] Such a model would provide individuals with the financial knowledge they need, as well enable them to gain valuable insight and understanding regarding their financial habits, as well as their thoughts, feelings, fears and attitudes about money. Through this work, individuals would be better equipped to manage their money and achieve the financial wellness that is essential for their overall wellbeing.[17]


Subjective well-being is “...based on the idea that how each person thinks and feels about his or her life is important”.[18] 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 subject to how one feels other people in their environment perceive them, whether that positively or negatively. Well-being is also subject to pleasure and whether or not basic human needs are fulfilled, although it could be said 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 the experience, as well as their relationship to human health. Whether or not other cultures are subject to internal culture appraisal is based on that culture's type. “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”.[19]

Ethnic identity[edit]

Ethnic identity may play a role in an individual's cognitive well-being. Studies have shown that “...both social psychological and developmental perspectives suggest that a strong, secure ethnic identity makes a positive contribution to cognitive well-being”.[20] Those in an acculturated society may feel more equal as a human being within their culture, therefore experiencing increased well-being.

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.[21] Having multiple identities and roles helps individuals to relate to their society and provide the opportunity for each to contribute more as they increase their roles, therefore creating enhanced levels of 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”.[21] Different roles an individual has have a different impact on 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. The influence of sports on well-being is conceptualized within a framework which includes impermanence, its hedonistic shallowness and its epistemological inadequacy.[clarification needed] Researching the effect of sport on well-being is difficult as some societies are unable to access sports, a deficiency in studying this phenomenon.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wellbeing
  2. ^ • 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.
  3. ^ a b Guttman, Levy, Louis, Shlomit (February 1982). "On the definition and varieties of attitude and wellbeing". Social Indicators Research 10 (2): 159–174. doi:10.1007/bf00302508. 
  4. ^ "Oil and Gas Commission Act, section 3 (a)(i)". Queen's Printer, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Huseyin Naci; John P. A. Ioannidis, (June 11, 2015). "Evaluation of Wellness Determinants and Interventions by Citizen Scientists". JAMA 314: 121. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.6160. 
  6. ^ Giboa, Schmeidler, Itzhak, David (2001). "A cognitive model of individual well-being". Social Choice and Welfare 18 (2): 1. doi:10.1007/s003550100103. 
  7. ^ Daniels, Kevin (2000). "Measures of five aspects of affective well-being at work". Human Relations 52 (2): 277. 
  8. ^ Editor (2013-07-23). "What is Wellness". Wellness.com.
  9. ^ a b McNulty, James; Frank D. Fincham (February 2011). "Beyond Positive Psychology". American Psychologist 67: 101–110. doi:10.1037/a0024572. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ White, John. "Education in Well-Being". The Oxford handbook of happiness: 540–550. 
  12. ^ de Chavez, A. C., Backett-Milburn, K., Parry, O., & Platt, S. (2005). Understanding and researching wellbeing: Its usage in different disciplines and potential for health research and health promotion. Health Education Journal, 64(1), 70-87.
  13. ^ a b Main, E. (2010, March 2). Why financial stress is the costliest for your health. http://www.rodalenews.com/stress-health-problems
  14. ^ PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). (2014, April). Employee financial wellness survey: 2014 results. http://www.pwc.com/en_US/us/private-company-services/publications/assets/pwc-employee-financial-wellness-survey-2014-results.pdf
  15. ^ Gallup. (n.d.). Americans' financial well-being is lowest, social highest. http://www.gallup.com/poll/172109/americans-financial-lowest-social-highest.aspx
  16. ^ Taylor, M., Jenkins, S., & Sacker, A. (2009). Financial capability and wellbeing: Evidence from the BHPS. UK: Financial Services Authority. http://hb.betterregulation.com/external/OP34.pdf
  17. ^ Vitt, L. (2009). Values centered financial education: Understanding cultural influences on learners’ financial behaviors. Denver: National Endowment for Financial Education. http://www.smartaboutmoney.org/Portals/0/lifevalue/financialeducation.pdf
  18. ^ Diener, Suh, Ed, Eunkook (2000). Culture and Subjective Well-being. A Bradford Book. p. 4. 
  19. ^ Diener, Suh, Ed, Eunkook (2000). Culture and Subjective Well-being. A Bradford Book. p. 10. 
  20. ^ Horenczyk, Liebkind, Phinney, Vedder, Gabriel, Karmela, Jean, Paul (2001). "Ethnic Identity, Immigration, and Well-Being: An Interactional Perspective". Journal of Social Studies 57: 493–510. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00225. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ 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]