Well-being, wellbeing, or wellness is a general term for 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)
- 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)".
- 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 cumulative theory development in the fields of attitude of related research".
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
Carol Ryff's multidimensional model of psychological well-being postlated six factors which are key for well-being:
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".
Three paths to happiness
- Pleasant life: research into the Pleasant Life, or the "life of enjoyment", examines how people optimally experience, forecast, and savor the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living (e.g., relationships, hobbies, interests, entertainment, etc.). Despite the attention given, Martin Seligman says this most transient element of happiness may be the least important.
- Good Life: investigation of the beneficial effects of immersion, absorption, and flow, felt by individuals when optimally engaged with their primary activities, is the study of the Good Life, or the "life of engagement". Flow is experienced when there is a positive match between a person's strength and their current task, i.e., when one feels confident of accomplishing a chosen or assigned task.
- Meaningful Life: inquiry into the Meaningful Life, or "life of affiliation", questions how individuals derive a positive sense of well-being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves (e.g., nature, social groups, organizations, movements, traditions, belief systems).
These categories appear neither widely disputed nor adopted by researchers across the 12 years that this academic area has been in existence.
In Flourish (2011) Seligman argued that the last category, "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.
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.
Example: A study was conducted to examine job resources, work engagement and Finnish dairy farmers’ preferences concerning methods to enhance overall well-being while working on farms. The results indicate that the family, working with cattle, healthy farm animals, a reasonable workload, and a sustainable farm economy have the capacity to create positive impacts on well-being among dairy farmers. Well-being on farms is a part of sustainable food production.
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- 'Objective accounts of well-being' http://philpapers.org/browse/objective-accounts-of-well-being
- 'Hedonistic accounts of well-being' http://philpapers.org/browse/hedonist-accounts-of-well-being
- 'Perfectionist accounts of well-being' http://philpapers.org/browse/perfectionist-accounts-of-well-being
- 'Hybrid accounts of well-being' http://philpapers.org/browse/hybrid-accounts-of-well-being
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