Well-being is a positive outcome that is meaningful for people and for many sectors of society because it shows that people perceive that their lives are going well. Good living conditions (e.g., housing, employment) are fundamental to well-being. Tracking these conditions is important. However, many indicators that measure living conditions fail to measure what people think and feel about their lives such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions and resilience, the realization of their potential, or their overall satisfaction with life—i.e., their “well-being.” Well-being generally includes global judgments of life satisfaction and feelings ranging from depression to joy.
Why is well-being useful?
- Well-being integrates mental health (mind) and physical health (body) resulting in more holistic approaches to disease prevention and health promotion.
- Well-being is a valid population outcome measure beyond morbidity, mortality, and economic status that tells how people perceive their lives are going from their own perspective.
- Well-being is an outcome that is meaningful to the public.
- Results from cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental studies find that well-being is associated with:
- Self-perceived health
- Healthy behaviors
- Mental and physical illness
- Social connectedness
- Factors in the physical and social environment
Measuring, tracking, and promoting well-being can be useful in disease prevention and health promotion. Well-being is associated with numerous health-, job-,family-,and economically-related benefits. For example, higher levels of well-being are associated with decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury; better immune functioning; speedier recovery; and increased longevity. Individuals with high levels of well-being are more productive at work and are more likely to contribute to their communities.
How does well-being relate to health promotion?
Health is more than the absence of disease; it is a resource that allows people to realize their aspirations, satisfy their needs, and to cope with the environment in order to live a long, productive, and fruitful life. In this sense, health enables social, economic, and personal development fundamental to well-being. Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health. Environmental and social resources for health can include: peace, economic security, a stable ecosystem, and safe housing. Individual resources for health can include: physical activity, healthful diet, social ties, resiliency, positive emotions, and autonomy. Health promotion activities aimed at strengthening such individual, environmental, and social resources may ultimately improve well-being.
How is well-being defined?
There is no consensus around a single definition of well-being, but there is general agreement that at minimum, well-being includes the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning, (e.g., feeling very healthy and full of energy). In simple terms, well-being can be described as judging life positively and feeling good. The following areas have been examined by different disciplines and include six of the dimensional wellness categories:
- Physical well-being
- Economic well-being
- Social well-being
- Development and activity
- Emotional well-being
- Psychological well-being
- Life satisfaction
- Domain specific satisfaction
- Engaging activities and work
What are some determinants of individual-level well-being?
There is no sole determinant of individual well-being, but in general, well-being is dependent upon good health, positive social relationships, and availability and access to basic resources (e.g., shelter, income). Life satisfaction is dependent more closely on the availability of basic needs being met (food, shelter, income) as well as access to modern conveniences (e.g., electricity). Pleasant emotions are more closely associated with having supportive relationships. Having supportive relationships is one of the strongest predictors of well-being, having a notably positive effect.