Social Wellbeing: A Literature Review
Wellbeing has been described from the perspective of the self (of individuals) – this is most often referred to as ‘subjective wellbeing’. In this perspective, wellbeing tends to be viewed as something that happens within an individual (Carruthers and Hood, 2004). The theory of ‘Wellbeing Homeostasis’ is an example of how subjective wellbeing may be explained from a narrow perspective.
This theory posits that individuals maintain subjective wellbeing by psychological devises – similar to how the body maintains its blood temperature and blood pressure (see Cummins, Eckersley, Pallant, Van Vugt and Misajon 2003).
However, it is more useful to view wellbeing as a social ‘thing’ – something that goes beyond the psychological aspect of being an individual or a group. As Keyes (1998), and later Keyes & Lopez (2002), argued, wellbeing consists of five social dimensions, including:
- Social acceptance (accepting others as they are)
- Social actualisation (positive comfort level with society)
- Social contribution (a feeling that one has a contribution to make to society)
- Social coherence (understanding the social world as predictable
- Social integration (feeling as a part of the community)
(Cited in Carruthers and Hood, 2004).
Nevertheless, wellbeing is also described from a perspective used by many policy-makers, which is apparently informed by evidence-based research. This perspective is known as ‘objective wellbeing’, and often follows the OECD’s ‘eight dimensions of life’, which can be ‘measured’ through statistical methods.
These dimensions include
- education and learning
- employment and the quality of working life
- time and leisure
- command over goods and services
- physical environment
- social environment
- and personal safety.
Access to all eight dimensions is crucial to wellbeing (Cristchurch City Council, 2005: online).
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