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.
    • Longevity.
    • Healthy behaviors.
    • Mental and physical illness.
    • Social connectedness.
    • Productivity.
    • 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.