Well-being, wellbeing, or wellness is the condition of an individual or group. A high level of well-being means that in some sense the individual's or group's condition is positive. According to Naci and Ioannidis, "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".
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) entry for "well-being" identifies ways in which terms related to happiness differ. According to the SEP, the terms "happy", "wellness", "satisfaction", "pleasure" or "well-being" can refer to a series of possible states:
- reflection on past events
- moment-to-moment evaluations of happiness
- by oneself, or with another person
- inferred from neuroimaging
- inferred from sensory input (pain, pleasure)
- inferred from cognitive structure (dysfunctional thinking, delusion)
- inferred from virtue (is prayer inherently instrumental to well-being?)
- duration of the experience
- effect on other factors (e.g., personal agency, power)
- repetitiveness (is pleasure derived from addiction incompatible with happiness?)
- objectivity (is "healthy eating" or "sex" always pleasurable?)
- whether the experience is altruistic or egoistic,
- whether happiness reflects an emotional state (affect-based account)
- whether happiness reflects a cognitive judgement (life satisfaction account)
The affective and life-satisfaction views of happiness differ meaningfully when it comes to certain topics such as the relationship between income and happiness:
"Surveying large numbers of Americans in one case, and what is claimed to be the first globally representative sample of humanity in the other, these studies found that income does indeed correlate substantially (.44 in the global sample), at all levels, with life satisfaction—strictly speaking, a “life evaluation” measure that asks respondents to rate their lives without saying whether they are satisfied. Yet the correlation of household income with the affect measures is far weaker: globally, .17 for positive affect, –.09 for negative affect; and in the United States, essentially zero above $75,000 (though quite strong at low income levels). If the results hold up, the upshot appears to be that income is pretty strongly related to life satisfaction, but weakly related to emotional well-being, at least above a certain threshold."
There are weaknesses to the self-report method of elicitation for happiness: The lay conception of emotions (affect) is that they are discrete. It is typical, in everyday language, just as in research, to use research protocols that accept answers such as: "I am happy or I am sad, but not both simultaneously", or "I am 7 on a 1-10 scale of happiness (likert)".
Three subdisciplines in psychology are critical for the study of psychological well-being:
- Developmental psychology, in which psychological well-being may be analyzed in terms of a pattern of growth across the lifespan.
- Personality psychology, in which it is possible to apply Maslow's concept of self-actualization, Rogers' concept of the fully functioning person, Jung's concept of individuation, and Allport's concept of maturity to account for psychological well-being.
- Clinical psychology, in which it may be asserted that the absence of mental illness constitutes psychological well-being.
There are two approaches typically taken to understand psychological well-being:
- Distinguishing positive and negative effects, and defining optimal psychological well-being and happiness as a balance between the two.
- Emphasizes life satisfaction as the key indicator of psychological well-being.
According to Guttman and Levy (1982) well-being is "...a special case of attitude". This approach serves two purposes in the study 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".
Models and components of wellbeing
Many different models have been developed.
Diener: tripartite model of subjective well-being
Diener's tripartite model of subjective well-being is one of the most comprehensive models of well-being in psychology. It was synthesized by Diener in 1984, positing "three distinct but often related components of wellbeing: frequent positive affect, infrequent negative affect, and cognitive evaluations such as life satisfaction".
Cognitive, affective and contextual factors contribute to subjective well-being. According to Diener and Suh, subjective well-being is "...based on the idea that how each person thinks and feels about his or her life is important".
Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being
- Personal growth
- Purpose in life
- Environmental mastery
- Positive relations with others
Corey Keyes: flourishing
According to Corey Keyes, who collaborated with Carol Ryff, mental well-being has three components, namely emotional or subjective well-being (also called hedonic well-being), psychological well-being, and social well-being (together also called eudaimonic well-being). Emotional well-being concerns subjective aspects of well-being, in concreto, feeling well, whereas psychological and social well-being concerns skills, abilities, and psychological and social functioning.
Seligman: positive psychology
Well-being is a central concept in positive psychology. Positive psychology is concerned with eudaimonia, "the good life", reflection about what holds the greatest value in life – the factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. While not attempting a strict definition of the good life, positive psychologists agree that one must live a happy, engaged, and meaningful life in order to experience "the good life". Martin Seligman referred to "the good life" as "using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification".
In Flourish (2011) Seligman argued that "meaningful life" can be considered as 3 different categories. The resulting acronym is PERMA: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishments. It is a mnemonic for the five elements of Martin Seligman's well-being theory:
- Positive emotions include a wide range of feelings, not just happiness and joy. Included are emotions like excitement, satisfaction, pride and awe, amongst others. These emotions are frequently seen as connected to positive outcomes, such as longer life and healthier social relationships.
- Engagement refers to involvement in activities that draws and builds upon one's interests. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains true engagement as flow, a feeling of intensity that leads to a sense of ecstasy and clarity. The task being done needs to call upon higher skill and be a bit difficult and challenging yet still possible. Engagement involves passion for and concentration on the task at hand and is assessed subjectively as to whether the person engaged was completely absorbed, losing self-consciousness.
- Relationships are all important in fueling positive emotions, whether they are work-related, familial, romantic, or platonic. As Dr. Christopher Peterson puts it simply, "Other people matter." Humans receive, share, and spread positivity to others through relationships. They are important not only in bad times, but good times as well. In fact, relationships can be strengthened by reacting to one another positively. It is typical that most positive things take place in the presence of other people.
- Meaning is also known as purpose, and prompts the question of "why". Discovering and figuring out a clear "why" puts everything into context from work to relationships to other parts of life. Finding meaning is learning that there is something greater than one's self. Despite potential challenges, working with meaning drives people to continue striving for a desirable goal.
- Accomplishments are the pursuit of success and mastery. Unlike the other parts of PERMA, they are sometimes pursued even when accomplishments do not result in positive emotions, meaning, or relationships. That being noted, accomplishments can activate the other elements of PERMA, such as pride, under positive emotion. Accomplishments can be individual or community-based, fun- or work-based.
UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) definition
The UK ONS defines wellbeing "as having 10 broad dimensions which have been shown to matter most to people in the UK as identified through a national debate. The dimensions are:
- the natural environment,
- personal well-being,
- our relationships,
- what we do,
- where we live,
- personal finance,
- the economy,
- education and skills, and
Personal well-being is a particularly important dimension which we define as how satisfied we are with our lives, our sense that what we do in life is worthwhile, our day to day emotional experiences (happiness and anxiety) and our wider mental wellbeing."
The ONS then introduced four questions pertaining to wellbeing in their 2011 national survey of the UK population, relating to evaluative well-being, eudemonic well-being, and positive and negative affect. They later switched to referring to the construct being measured as "personal well-being".
Nagel: Experience itself as a good
Thomas Nagel has said that "There are elements which, if added to one's experience, make life better; there are other elements which if added to one's experience, make life worse. But what remains when these are set aside is not merely neutral: it is emphatically positive."
Mixed emotions help wellbeing
Research on positive psychology, well-being, eudaimonia and happiness, and the theories of Diener, Ryff, Keyes and Seligmann covers a broad range of levels and topics, including "the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life". The World Happiness Report series provide annual updates on the global status of subjective well-being. A global study using data from 166 nations, provided a country ranking of psycho-social well-being. The latter study showed that subjective well-being and psycho-social well-being (i.e. eudaimonia) measures capture distinct constructs and are both needed for a comprehensive understanding of mental well-being.37
Wellbeing as a political goal
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- Scott Barry Kaufman sees well-being as influenced by happiness and meaning.
- Kaufman, Scott Barry. "The Differences between Happiness and Meaning in Life". Scientific American Blog Network.
- Haybron, Dan (25 March 2019). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University – via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Ryff, Carol D. (1 January 1989). "Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 57 (6): 1069–1081. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1689.
- Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(4), 719–727.
- 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.
- "Measuring what matters: the role of well-being methods in development policy and practice". ODI.
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- Iolanda Costa Galinha & José Luís Pais-Ribeiro (2011), Cognitive, affective and contextual predictors of subjective wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 34–53. doi:10.5502/ijw.v2i1.3
- Diener, Suh, Ed, Eunkook (2000). Culture and Subjective Well-being. A Bradford Book. p. 4.
- Robitschek, Christine; Keyes, Corey L. M. (2009). "Keyes's model of mental health with personal growth initiative as a parsimonious predictor". Journal of Counseling Psychology. 56 (2): 321–329. doi:10.1037/a0013954.
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- Seligman, M.E.P. (2009). Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press.
- Best Benefit of Exercise? Happiness Archived 2012-06-26 at the Wayback Machine, Robin Loyd, Fox News, May 30, 2006.
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- Further; "Therefore life is worth living even when the bad elements of experience are plentiful, and the good ones too meager to outweigh the bad ones on their own. The additional positive weight is supplied by experience itself, rather than by any of its consequences." 'Death' (essay), Thomas Nagel, CUP, 1979
- "The Vise Side of Life". 2018-04-24.
- "Mixed Emotional Experience Is Associated with and Precedes Improvements in Psychological Well-Being". ResearchGate.
- "When Feeling Bad Can Be Good: Mixed Emotions Benefit Physical Health Across Adulthood". ResearchGate.
- Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi 2000.
- "World Happiness Report". World Happiness Report.
- Joshanloo, Mohsen (2018). "Optimal human functioning around the world: A new index of eudaimonic well-being in 166 nations". British Journal of Psychology. 109 (4): 637–655. doi:10.1111/bjop.12316. PMID 29846018.
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- Roy, Eleanor Ainge (2019-05-14). "New Zealand's world-first 'wellbeing' budget to focus on poverty and mental health". The Guardian.
- Joshanloo, Mohsen (23 October 2015). "Revisiting the Empirical Distinction Between Hedonic and Eudaimonic Aspects of Well-Being Using Exploratory Structural Equation Modeling". Journal of Happiness Studies. 17 (5): 2023–2036. doi:10.1007/s10902-015-9683-z.
- Stoewen, Debbie L. (2017). "Dimensions of wellness: Change your habits, change your life". The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 58 (8): 861–862. PMC 5508938. PMID 28761196.
Media related to Well-being at Wikimedia Commons
- 'Desire-satisfaction accounts of well-being'
- 'Objective accounts of well-being'
- 'Hedonistic accounts of well-being'
- 'Perfectionist accounts of well-being'
- 'Hybrid accounts of well-being'
- Hooray for GDP! GDP as a measure of wellbeing (2012-12-22), Nicholas Oulton, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)
- Happiness and satisfaction are not everything: Toward wellbeing indices based on stated preference (2015-01-02), Daniel J. Benjamin, Associate Professor of Economics, Cornell University; Samantha Cunningham, Project specialist, University of Southern California; Ori Heffetz, Associate Professor of Economics, Cornell University; Miles Kimball, Professor of Economics and Survey Research, University of Michigan; and Nichole Szembro, Assistant Professor of Economics, Trinity College. Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)
- Busts hurt more than booms help: New lessons for growth policy from global wellbeing surveys (2014-10-08), Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Michael I. Norton, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)
- Science of Wellbeing. Measurements and Techniques Annie Wilson, 2014, Inner light publishers
- Ditch the ‘wellness’ logs, charts, apps and get a life (2015-01-18). "Most personal productivity measures are often a waste of time." The Financial Times
- Ryff and Keyes 1995. The Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being. PWB – 42 Item version scale.