According to Diener and Emmons (1984)1, in the field of psychology, much attention had been given to human unhappiness and suffering rather than to the causes and consequences of positive functioning. According to Huppert (2009)2, “Psychological well-being is about lives going well. It is the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively.” People with high PWB report feeling happy, capable, well-supported, satisfied with life, and so on. According to Deci & Ryan (2008)3, psychological well-being is defined as combination of positive affective states such as happiness (the hedonic perspective) and functioning with optimal effectiveness in individual and social life (the eudaimonic perspective). The hedonic approach focuses on happiness and defines well-being in terms of pleasure attainment and pain avoidance. According to Eudaimonic view, well-being consists of more than just happiness. It lies instead in the actualization of human potential. The research on psychological well-being has progressed rapidly since the emergence of the field over five decades ago. The psychologists and other social scientists have made intense efforts to understand the factors influencing psychological well-being.
Psychological well-being refers to how people evaluate their lives. According to Diener and Tov (2007)4, these evaluations may be in the form of cognitions or in the form of affect. The cognitive part is an information based appraisal of one’s life that is when a person gives conscious evaluative judgments about one’s satisfaction with life as a whole. The affective part is a hedonic evaluation guided by emotions and feelings such as frequency with which people experience pleasant/unpleasant moods in reaction to their lives. The assumption behind this is that most people evaluate their life as either good or bad, so they are normally able to offer judgments. Further, people invariably experience moods and emotions, which have a positive effect or a negative effect. Thus, people have a level of subjective well-being even if they do not often consciously think about it, and the psychological system offers virtually a constant evaluation of what is happening to the person.
Psychological well-being is not about temporary well-being but sustained well-being. Sustainable well-being does not require individuals to feel good all the time. The experience of painful emotions like disappointment, failure and grief is a normal part of life, and being able to manage these negative or painful emotions is essential for long-term well-being. Psychological well-being is, however, compromised when negative emotions are extreme or long lasting and interfere with a person’s ability to function in his or her daily life.
The concept of feeling good incorporates not only the positive emotions of happiness and contentment, but also such emotions as interest, engagement, confidence, and affection. The concept of functioning effectively involves the development of one’s potential, having some control over one’s life, having a sense of purpose like working towards a specific goal, and experiencing positive relationships with people.
Recent years have witnessed a tremendous shift in the research literature from an emphasis on disorder and dysfunction to a focus on well-being and positive mental health. This paradigm shift has been especially prominent in psychological research conducted by Argyle, Diener, Kahneman, Seligman, Ryff and Singer. It has also captured the attention of epidemiologists, social scientists, economists, and policy makers.
This recent research on mental well-being has highlighted the following factors:
- Well-being is more than the absence of ill-being. It needs to be studied in its own right.
- Many of the drivers of well-being are not the same as the drivers of ill-being.
There is a need to distinguish between the approaches to improving psychological wellbeing: (a) treating disorder when it is present (b) preventing disorder from occurring and (c) enhancing well-being (i.e. increasing flourishing).
There is a strong possibility that, by increasing well-being in the population, we might be able to reduce common mental and behavioral problems than by focusing exclusively on the treatment and prevention of disorder.
Implications of Psychological Well-being
Many studies on well-being found that people who are high on psychological well-being enjoy good physical health, live longer compared to people who report less on psychological well-being and report less in suffering from diseases especially stress related diseases. In a famous longitudinal study called ‘The Nun Study’, Danner, Snowdon, and Friesen (2001)5 studied the autobiographies written by Nuns in their early twenties. The autobiographies were categorized according to the number of positive statements they contained. The researchers found that nuns in the lower half of the distribution of positive statements died on average nine years sooner than those in the top category of positive statements. These results are particularly important because, from their early twenties, the lives of the nuns were very nearly similar. Hence, the difference in survival was not related to their lifestyle or circumstances in the intervening period, but to their positive emotions six decades earlier.
Some more longitudinal studies have emphasized the importance of positive emotions in health and survival (2003)6. An important physiological mediator underlying the relationship between positive emotions, health, and survival is likely to be the functioning of the immune system. This has been proved in experimental studies such as those by Cohen and his colleagues7. In one study by these researchers, several hundred healthy volunteers were administered nasal drops containing a common cold virus, and monitored in quarantine. The investigators found that the more positive the participant’s emotional style, the lower his/her risk of developing a cold. However, negative emotional style was not associated with developing a cold. Another study by the same researchers found that sociability was linearly related to decreased probability of developing a cold. A study by Marsland, Cohen, Rabin, and Manuck (2006)8 examined the relationship between emotional style and antibody response to the Hepatitis B vaccine. Participants with high scores on trait positive affect produced more antibodies to the vaccine. There was no relationship between antibody response and either trait negative affect or depression. The above studies assessed the emotional style of the participants but did not use experimentation to alter emotions and verify. Therefore, it is difficult to be sure whether the individuals’ positive characteristics were causally related to the outcome or whether there was a common cause of both the characteristics and the outcome. The direction of causality is much clearer in the classic study by Davidson et al. (2003)9. Using an intervention which increases positive mental states (mindfulness meditation), they reported that the meditation group produced a higher antibody response than the control group to an influenza vaccine. Positive mood has also been shown to positively influence the cardiovascular response to stress.
Fredrickson, Mancuso, Branigan and Tugade (2000)10 exposed volunteers to a stressful task followed by a mood induction procedure. Subjects in a positive mood state showed much more rapid cardiovascular recovery from stress than those in a negative or neutral mood state. Prolonged reactivity to stress is harmful to immune function and to other physiological processes, while a rapid recovery from stress is beneficial for health. A study by Lai et al. (2005)11 directly investigated the effect of optimism on the secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol. Positive affect and optimism had somewhat different effects on the diurnal pattern of salivary cortisol secretion, but both were associated with a healthy pattern, compared to negative affect and pessimism. In a recent review of well-designed prospective and experimental studies, Pressman and Cohen (2006)12 concluded that there is strong evidence for a beneficial effect of positive emotions on physical health and survival, and that this effect may be independent of the level of negative emotion. Indeed, some of the studies cited above suggest that, in the general population, positive affect (or the lack of it) may exert a more powerful effect on health and physiology than the presence of negative affect. This startling conclusion may have hitherto been obscured by the focus on pathology which has dominated biomedical science. Pathology-oriented research used measures which fail to differentiate between the presence of negative experiences and the absence of positive experiences. There are a number of pathways through which positive emotions can exert their positive impact on health. Evidence cited above supports the view that positive mental states can have direct effects on physiological, hormonal, and immune function which, in turn, influence health outcomes. Behavioral and social factors may also mediate the link between positive emotions and health. According to David, Lee and Auke53, happier people tend to have healthier lifestyles, more friends and positive interpersonal experiences. Thus, the health benefits of positive emotional states may not be directly attributable to positive feelings, but to health practices or social factors that are known to have beneficial effects on health and life expectancy. The social factor that has been most studied in relation to health is receiving social support. According to House, Landis, & Umberson (1988)14 social support moderates and protects individuals against physical and mental health problems. More recent evidence has established the powerful role of providing support to others. In a prospective study of hundreds of elderly couples, Brown and her colleagues Nesse, Vinokur, & Smith, 200315 found that mortality was greatly reduced in individuals who reported providing instrumental or emotional support, compared to those who did not, and this effect remained after adjustment for a host of potential health, behavioral, and socio-demographic confounders. The investigators also found that receiving support had no significant effect on mortality. There is evidence from surveys that giving support in the form of volunteering may be associated with higher levels of psychological well-being.
For instance, a study by Greenfield and Marks (2004)16 found that in older people, volunteering was associated with more positive affect and more meaning in life. Policies which encourage people to give support to others in the form of volunteering or mentoring are likely to have health benefits as well as personal and societal benefits.
For citing this article, use:
- Bala, M. B. (2016). A comparative study on psychological well being of nursing personnel in hospitals situated in Hyderabad and Delhi.
- Diener; E., & Emmons, R. A. (1984). The independence of positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47: 1105-1117.
- Huppert, FA (2009). Psychological well-being: Evidence regarding its causes and consequences.Applied Psychology: Health and Well‒Being, 1, 137–164
- Deci, E.L. & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: An introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9: 1–11.
- Diener, E., & Tov, W. (2007). Subjective well-being and peace. Journal of Social Issues, 63, 421-440.
- Danner, D., D., Snowdon, D., A., & Friesen, W., V., (2001). Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the Nun study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(5): 804-813.
- Huppert, F.A., & Whittington, J.E. (2003). Evidence for the independence of positive and negative well-being: Implications for quality of life assessment. British Journal of Health Psychology, 8, 107–122.
- Cohen, S. (2003), Doyle, W.J., Turner, R., Alper, C.M., & Skoner, D.P.. Sociability and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychological Science, 14, 388–395.
- Marsland, A.L., Cohen, S., Rabin, B.S., & Manuck, S.B. (2006). Trait positive affect and antibody response to hepatitis B vaccination. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 20, 261–269.
- Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkrantz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570.
- Fredrickson, B.L., Mancuso, R.A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 24, 237–258.
- Lai, J.C.L., Chong, A.M.L., Ho, S.M.Y., Siu, O.T., Evans, P.D., Ng, S.H., et al. (2005). Optimism, positive affectivity, and salivary cortisol. British Journal of Health Psychology, 10, 467–484.
- Cohen, S., & Pressman, S., D. (2006). Positive Affect and Health. Current Directions In Psychological Science. 15( 3), 122-125.
- David, W., Lee A. C & Auke , T. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 54(6), 1063-1070.
- House, J.S., Landis, K.R., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social relationships and health. Science, 214, 540–545.
- Brown, S.L., Nesse, R.M., Vinokur, A.D., & Smith, D.M. (2003). Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it: Results from a prospective study of mortality. Psychological Science, 14, 320–327.
- Greenfield, E.A., & Marks, N.F. (2004). Formal volunteering as a protective factor for older adults’ psychological well-being. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59B, 258–264.