Subjective Wellbeing and Health Policy

Subjective wellbeing is merely a reflection of mental health?

  •  Doctor Anna  AlexandrovaDoctor Anna Alexandrova
    Completely disagree
    It is true that some of the literature defines mental health in a way thata??s hardly distinguishable from subjective wellbeing but this is a mistake. Mental health is best viewed as a set of psychological endowments that make it possible for people to pursue their goals and hence wellbeing, but they are distinct. Being miserable, disappointed with the world, and generally unhappy can be perfectly healthy. Defining mental health in terms of subjective wellbeing medicalises unhappiness, a dangerous step.

  •  Professor Paul  FrijtersProfessor Paul Frijters
    Completely disagree
    Wellbeing is about how well a person judges their own life to be going, which is heavily influenced by mental health but is not the same. Wellbeing weighs some outcomes much higher than the most population measures of mental health. We for instance know that income has more effect on wellbeing than mental health and that status-conferring elements in general are more important to wellbeing than mental health. Wellbeing is also strongly influenced by physical health, where mental health is different from physical health.

  •  Professor Arie  KapteynProfessor Arie Kapteyn
    Disagree
    Mental health and subjective wellbeing are certainly correlated, but equating the two would be a gross simplification

  •  Professor Stephen  WuProfessor Stephen Wu
    Disagree
    While mental health is one component of subjective wellbeing, it is certainly not the only one.

  •  Professor Mariano  RojasProfessor Mariano Rojas
    Completely disagree
    Subjective wellbeing makes reference to the experience of being well people have. Mental health is an important driver, but it is just one of the many factors that intervene in a person's life and which influence her overall assessment of life. Subjective well-being could be high even when suffering from mental illnesses as well as it could be low even when enjoying good mental health.

  •  Professor Mark   WoodenProfessor Mark Wooden
    Disagree
    While SWB is closely related to mental health, and a good level of mental health functioning is a necessary precondition for achieving a high level of SWB, it is not a sufficient condition. Among the majority without symptoms of mental ill-health there is considerable variation in SWB levels.

  •  Professor Leonardo  BechettiProfessor Leonardo Bechetti
    Disagree
    Empirical evidence demonstrates that real life events and drivers of objective wellbeing are also drivers of subjective wellbeing. The main difference between the two is to my opinion the role of expectations. Subjective wellbeing is affected by the gap between achievements and expectations while objective wellbeing is not

  •  Professor Richard  EasterlinProfessor Richard Easterlin
    Disagree
    SWB is more than mental health. It tells us about differences in the happiness of people who have no mental health issues.

  •  Professor Ruut  VeenhovenProfessor Ruut Veenhoven
    Disagree
    Mental health is a major cause of life-satisfaction, but not the only one. You can be mentally sound but unhappy because bad things happened to you

  •  Professor Eugenio  ProtoProfessor Eugenio Proto
    Disagree
    SWB can also reflect mood or some real event happening in somebody's life

  •  Professor Heinz  WelschProfessor Heinz Welsch
    Disagree
    Subjective wellbeing may partly, but not merely, be a reflection of mental health. And mental health partly depends on more fundamental factors, such as personality, which co-determine mental health and subjective wellbeing.

  •  Professor Ada  Ferrer-i-CarbonnellProfessor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
    Disagree
    To the extent that well-being is not only related to positive emotions, but also to good material and non-material conditions, such as employment and income, subjective well-being and mental health are strongly correlated, but not identical concepts. Or in other words, mental health is a key component of subjective well-being, but not the only. Empirical evidence in fact seem to suggest that the determinants of both are similar, but they do differ as well.

  •  Professor Homa  ZarghameeProfessor Homa Zarghamee
    Disagree
    There are plenty of ways one can be mentally unhealthy that are likely orthogonal to how one assesses her own wellbeing. While we might be tempted to think of depression or anxiety or other mental health disorders that we can expect interfere one's sense of satisfaction with life, plenty do not have clear negative mood-effects, let alone self-assessment effects (e.g., ADHD, autism).

  •  Doctor Chris  Barrington-LeighDoctor Chris Barrington-Leigh
    Disagree
    I don't think statements like this are meaningful by themselves. If it's true or false, then the terms have precise definitions. I can define SWB carefully (and measurably), but mental health has a fluid meaning. It is often used as a euphemism for DSM mental illness, rather than a holistic concept of psychological thriving. In one way of thinking, life satisfaction is the best measure we have of broad mental health.

  •  Professor Wenceslao  UnanueProfessor Wenceslao Unanue
    Completely disagree
    Subjective well-being (SWB) is more than a reflection of mental health. SWB a?? often called happiness a?? is a complex construct that comprises three key elements: Satisfaction with life as a whole, positive affect and only occasional negative affect. SWB has been associated, for example, with several indicators of a better life at the individual (e.g. lower ill-being, higher well-being), organizational (e.g. higher performance) and societal (trust, cooperation) level.

  •  Professor Dan  HaybronProfessor Dan Haybron
    Disagree
    While well-being is sometimes defined as positive mental health, I think this is a mistake: unhappiness can be perfectly healthy, indeed desirable, and happiness unhealthy. Negative mental states have an important role to play in human life, and conflating well-being with health risks medicalizing ordinary grief and other fitting responses to the bad things in life. At the same time, the emotional aspects of subjective well-being overlap a great deal with common mental health concerns like depression, anxiety and stress, and indeed those conditions can be seen as forms of unhappiness. Indeed, some mental health scales used to screen for those issues are effectively happiness measures, aimed primarily at certain kinds of unhappiness. Another aspect of subjective well-being, life satisfaction, is less directly related to mental health, though poor mental health is unsurprisingly associated with lower life satisfaction.

  •  Professor Martin  BinderProfessor Martin Binder
    Disagree
    Both are related, but SWB is different from mental health. For instance, life satisfaction is an endorsement and judgement on how well one's life is going, which depends on mental health (as a very important facet) but on other things as well.

  •  Professor Daniel  SgroiProfessor Daniel Sgroi
    Disagree
    Happiness itself is a loose concept and can be defined in different ways. One such way might just be to relate happiness to mental health, in which case the question would be tautologically true. Many who do not see them as the same by definition would argue that mental health is an important deteminant of happiness. However, we could also easily envisage a situation where two people who are similar in terms of mental health could be at different levels of happiness. One way this might arise is if we see mental health as more objectively measurable while happiness could be viewed to be a subjective and relative concept. To give just one counter-example that indicates why the question might be incorrect consider someone who is suffering from euphoria: normally defined as a mental condition that involves experiencing extreme moods and periods of intense excitement. Such a person might report high levels of subjective happiness at one point in time but might also accept that they are suffering from a serious mental condition. To put it another way, raising happiness levels by inducing feelings of euphoria might also raise mental health concerns. This is an extreme example but should indicate why the two concepts are not exactly the same.





Wellbeing policy is best situated as part of health policy?

  •  Doctor Anna  AlexandrovaDoctor Anna Alexandrova
    Completely disagree
    Some part certainly but not solely. Wellbeing policy also calls for a different kind of political engagement, citizenship and solidarity and is not solely a healthcare issue.

  •  Professor Paul  FrijtersProfessor Paul Frijters
    Disagree
    If one parks wellbeing policy under the rubric of health, one limits wellbeing policy to items in the physical and mental health sphere. The whole business of the purpose of life, the sustainability of our environment, and the quality of our cultural life is then off the table. Hence being subsumed into health policy is a trap that wellbeing should try and avoid.

  •  Professor Arie  KapteynProfessor Arie Kapteyn
    Disagree
    It does of course depend on how one defines health policy, but given that wellbeing is affected by such things as income volatility, social safety nets, crime, street noise, etc. health policy would seem to be way too narrow

  •  Professor Stephen  WuProfessor Stephen Wu
    Agree
    Health policy is generally considered very important at the national and international level, and it would be good to include subjective wellbeing in this context.

  •  Professor Mariano  RojasProfessor Mariano Rojas
    Completely disagree
    The association between health and well-being is a common mistake and it is a mistake that has serious consequences for the identification and design of wellbeing enhancing policies. This association suggests that the way of increasing wellbeing is through (mental) health policies. Happiness research shows drivers of wellbeing go much beyond health and that all policy spheres would benefit from incorporating a wellbeing perspective: urban policies, education policies, employment policies, retirement policies, social programs, and so on.

  •  Professor Mark   WoodenProfessor Mark Wooden
    Completely disagree
    While research has consistently demonstrated that good health is critical to achieving and maintaining high levels of SWB, it is also well established that SWB is influenced by a wide range of other factors. As a result, governments have the potential to influence SWB not just through policy action in the health domain, but through all of policies and interventions, be it in the areas of income transfer and taxation, the labour market, the environment, public transport and infrastructure, and I could go on.

  •  Professor Leonardo  BechettiProfessor Leonardo Bechetti
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Wellbeing has strong links with health. Eudaimonic wellbeing is a driver of life expectancy and of insurgence of illnessess However wellbeing affects all dimensions of economic life and should be taken into accont also for those dimensions (ie. workers satisfaction for labour economics)

  •  Professor Richard  EasterlinProfessor Richard Easterlin
    Disagree
    Well-being policy covers all aspects of life, not just health.

  •  Professor Ruut  VeenhovenProfessor Ruut Veenhoven
    Disagree
    Wellbeing policy should not be situated on one particular policy domain. Its place in health policy may be the most evident, but should not be the only place.

  •  Professor Eugenio  ProtoProfessor Eugenio Proto
    Neither agree nor disagree
    If this is efficient and cost effective why not, otherwise they can also de managed separately

  •  Professor Heinz  WelschProfessor Heinz Welsch
    Disagree
    Health is an important contributor to subjective wellbeing. Therefore, health policy may play a part in wellbeing policy, along with policies aimed at objective conditions.

  •  Professor Ada  Ferrer-i-CarbonnellProfessor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Well-being should be an important, but not the only element to define health policy.

  •  Professor Homa  ZarghameeProfessor Homa Zarghamee
    Neither agree nor disagree
    I agree with this if the alternative is that it be situated as part of environmental policy or legal policy, but it's not clear what the alternatives are.

  •  Doctor Chris  Barrington-LeighDoctor Chris Barrington-Leigh
    Completely disagree
    Currently, "mental health" is siloed and under-provisioned within health care systems; health care is insufficiently integrated with social services and supports; and health care is overly focused on antiquated objective patient medical outcomes and life extension, rather than wellbeing of patients, care-givers, and society at large. In terms of institutional structure, health services are just one agency whose resource allocation should be accountable to human wellbeing. Indeed, nearly all policy should be accountable to wellbeing. Therefore the exact opposite of the proposed statement is the case: health policy is just one component of wellbeing policy.

  •  Professor Wenceslao  UnanueProfessor Wenceslao Unanue
    Completely disagree
    I do not think that wellbeing policy is best situated as part of health policy. I tend to like the Bhutan idea in terms that well-being should guide (and not only be part of) all the country policies (e.g. health policies, economic policies, workplace policies, environmental policies).

  •  Professor Dan  HaybronProfessor Dan Haybron
    Disagree
    I think this gets things backwards: health is one aspect of well-being, and health policy is one kind of well-being policy. (And for that reason there should be little debate about the very idea of well-being policy, since we've been at it in the form of health policy for a very long time.) One risk here is treating healthy forms of ill-being as pathological--it's not a health problem to feel sad after the loss of your spouse. That said, discussions of "well-being" in research and policy should take greater notice of the vast body of work that's already been done in the health arena, particularly mental health. Depression researchers, for instance, are just studying one kind of unhappiness, yet their measures and methods are quite different from those of most subjective well-being researchers--partly, perhaps, because mental health professionals seem to be more aware of the limitations of people's self-reports.

  •  Professor Martin  BinderProfessor Martin Binder
    Disagree
    Wellbeing is broader than "mere" health, so health policy should be situated as part of a systematic wellbeing policy.

  •  Professor Daniel  SgroiProfessor Daniel Sgroi
    Neither agree nor disagree
    It might well be that health policy (for instance at the firm or government level) is the right vehicle for wellbeing policy especially since we know that mental and physical health have a powerful causal impact on happiness and certainly health and wellbeing are often seen as natural partners. However, we also know that there are important social and economic determinants of happiness which might mean that economic and social policy more generally may also be well-placed to play a role in boosting wellbeing. It might be argued that almost all forms of policy should consider the impact on wellbeing and so pulling wellbeing considerations out of all other forms of policy so they can be located only in health policy would not be such a good approach.