Six complexities we need to be aware of when embedding wellbeing

The Centre launched five years ago and has been hugely successful in making the case for why wellbeing should be a key objective of policy. While all agree improving wellbeing matters – what that means, how we achieve it, and how we measure it, isn’t always straightforward…
1. Reduce low wellbeing or increase high wellbeing?

Research often focuses on averages, which can give the impression that one intervention will have a similar impact on all individuals’ wellbeing. However, the things that will improve wellbeing aren’t the same for everyone. This study, for example, found that the interventions likely to lift someone with ‘low’ wellbeing up to ‘moderate’, were different from those likely to lift someone from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’ wellbeing.

So if you’re deciding on what interventions to support, consider whether your priority is to reduce the prevalence of low wellbeing or increase the prevalence of high. The interventions that follow are likely to be different.

2. Treat mental illness to improve wellbeing?
Mental health is at the heart of wellbeing. Some argue there’s a ‘dual continuum’, where mental illness and wellbeing are two ends of one spectrum; others don’t. Either way, it’s clear they closely align. The issue, then, is how best to improve mental health?…

Sally McManus is Research Associate at NatCen Social Research. She is also part of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing’s Advisory Panel.

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