Archive for August, 2016

Measuring different types of Well-being

Well-being is a very broad construct. Any good measure of well-being is likely to be multi-dimensional and consist of many factors or scales. A recent review of well-being measures grouped the well-being measures into four broad groups of Hedonic, Eudiamonic, Quality of Life and Wellness measures.

However, a better conceptualization of well-being is to consider it made of emotional/hedonic well-being, psychological well-being, social well being and vocational/economic well-being.

Emotional well-being is typically measured by presence of positive emotions, absence of negative emotions and life satisfaction. While the first two aspects may be measured by PANAS , a popular measure of life satisfaction is Satisfaction with life scale.  I have proposed elsewhere that Life outlook also be measured as art of this emotional well-being.

A good measure of Psychological well-being is the one developed by Ryff. It measures psychological well-being on six axes or scales. As defined here, the scales measure the following:

Holds positive attitudes toward oneself and past life and concedes and accepts varied aspects of self (self-acceptance)
Shows insight into own potential, sense of development, and open to new and challenging experiences (personal growth)
Holds goals and beliefs that affirm sense of direction in life and feels that life has a purpose and meaning (purpose in life)
Exhibits capability to manage complex environment, and can choose or manage and mold environments to suit needs (environmental mastery)
Exhibits self-direction that is often guided by his or her own socially accepted and conventional internal standards and resists unsavory social pressures (autonomy)
Has warm, satisfying, trusting personal relationships and is capable of empathy and intimacy (positive relations with others)
As can be seen above, psychological well-being is very much tied to the basic human needs fulfillment. Whether they be needs for autonomy, mastery and relatedness as delineated in Self-determination theory;  or the need for purpose as popularized by Daniel Pink along with autonomy and mastery; or the Alderfer’s ERG theory emphasizing needs of Growth and Relatedness, all of these need satisfactions lead to psychological well-being. Nico at Mappalicious has a good write-up on the same with traits of low and high scorers on each dimension mentioned.
English: A diagram depicting the three element...

English: A diagram depicting the three elements of self-determination theory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good measure of social well being is one proposed by Keyes. This measures social well-being along five dimensions.
Has positive attitude toward others while acknowledging and accepting people’s differences and complexity ( social acceptance)
Believes that people, social groups, and society have potential and can evolve or grow positively ( social actualization)
Feels that one’s life is useful to society and the output of his or her own activities are valued by or valuable to others ( social contribution)
Interested in society or social life; feels society and culture are intelligible, somewhat logical, predictable, and meaningful (social coherence)
Has a sense of belonging to a community and derives comfort and support from community (social integration)
I still have to find a good measure of vocational/economic well-being.
While there are a plethora of well-being measures and equally diverse theoretical stances, it would serve all of us well if more comprehensive measures of well-being were used and also if all researchers used such a comprehensive measure to  report their findings. Well-being has important correlates and causation with respect to many valued life outcomes and many interventions to increase well-being are also gaining ground. Unless we measure well-being correctly, we may be getting onlya partial picture.

The BioPsychoSocioEnvironmental model

Most of us have heard about the BioPsychoSocial model of mental illnesses and have also heard about the stress-diathesis model. Today as I was contemplating the two, taking cue from my ABCD model of psychology, I tried combining the two and find quite some merit in that approach.

Schematic of diathesis–stress model.

Schematic of diathesis–stress model. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To recap, BioPsychoSocial model says that any disease is a result of multiple interacting factors- some of them biological in nature while others psychological and social. The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind and together they may lead to health or illness. This model is as opposed to the BioMedical model which considers the disease to be predominantly due to biological factors.

The stress-diathesis model posits that people have underlying biological or psychological vulnerabilities and when exposed to an environmental stressor may develop a mental disease with varying probabilities. The same stressor may be harmless to a person who does not have those many vulnerabilities, but prove detrimental for someone with the right kind of vulnerabilities.

Combining the two models together, one can have biological, psychological or social diathesis or vulnerabilities and when exposed to the right environmental toxin/stressor may lead to the emergence of a mental health issue in the individual.

To  elucidate by way of an example. Consider a person whose serotonin neurotransmitter system is such that he typically has lower levels of baseline serotonin. This would be a biological vulnerability to depression. He also has tendency towards negative automatic thoughts or pessimism.  This would be a psychological vulnerability. Moreover he has limited social support and is unmarried and from a low SES background. This would be the social vulnerability. Strike three. On top of this, lets say he suddenly loses hos job and is laid off. That environmental life event may be enough to drive this person to clinical depression.

The BioPsychSocioEnvironmental model has application not only in psychopathology, but I believe its a powerful framework for normal development too. For e.g., if we replace diathesis-stress model with differential susceptibility thesis  then the diathesis or sensitivity to context can interact with both positive and negative environmental events to lead to positive or negative life outcomes.

To me combining the two models is immensely fruitful; hope you too find it useful.

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