Why is well-being useful for public health?
- Well-being integrates mental health (mind) and physical health (body) resulting in more holistic approaches to disease prevention and health promotion.6
- Well-being is a valid population outcome measure beyond morbidity, mortality, and economic status that tells us how people perceive their life is going from their own perspective.1, 2, 4, 5
- Well-being is an outcome that is meaningful to the public.
- Advances in psychology, neuroscience, and measurement theory suggest that well-being can be measured with some degree of accuracy.2, 7
- Results from cross-sectional, longitudinal and experimental studies find that well-being is associated with1, 8:
- Self-perceived health.
- Healthy behaviors.
- Mental and physical illness.
- Social connectedness.
- Factors in the physical and social environment.
- Well-being can provide a common metric that can help policy makers shape and compare the effects of different policies (e.g., loss of greenspace might impact well-being more so than commercial development of an area).4, 5
- Measuring, tracking and promoting well-being can be useful for multiple stakeholders involved in disease prevention and health promotion.
Well-being is associated with numerous health-, job-, family-, and economically-related benefits.8For example, higher levels of well-being are associated with decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury; better immune functioning; speedier recovery; and increased longevity.9-13Individuals with high levels of well-being are more productive at work and are more likely to contribute to their communities.4, 14
Previous research lends support to the view that the negative affect component of well-being is strongly associated with neuroticism and that positive affect component has a similar association with extraversion.15, 16 This research also supports the view that positive emotions—central components of well-being—are not merely the opposite of negative emotions, but are independent dimensions of mental health that can, and should be fostered.17, 25 Although a substantial proportion of the variance in well-being can be attributed to heritable factors,26, 27environmental factors play an equally if not more important role.