Humans have known about the importance of wellbeing for thousands of years.

Aristotle wrote that wellbeing involved achieving moral and intellectual virtues: such as courage, wisdom and understanding through science. Confucianism and Daoism described fulfilment and joy through belonging to greater concerns, and intimate connections with nature and the larger human family.

Now in the modern age, we are using science to understand how wellbeing happens and the wide range of benefits that result from it.

Scientists are conducting an increasing number of studies and gathering a growing body of evidence.

The fields of expertise range from psychology, medicine and neuroscience, through to sociologists and economists. You can read about their discoveries in the topics below.

“ Better wellbeing directly causes benefits ”

Wellbeing directly causes benefits

Studies have found an association between better wellbeing and good outcomes. They're usually based on looking at large groups of people.

A 2012 study of more than 11,000 men and women aged 50+ in England, for example, found that those who were in the top 25% of experiencing self-reported enjoyment in life, were 28.7% less likely to die. In other words, more enjoyment in life is associated with living longer.

But then the question is raised about causation: 'Do people aged over 50 who live longer simply report more enjoyment in life because they haven't died yet?'

Scientists, however, are finding that better wellbeing actually directly causes benefits. These studies actively aim to achieve better wellbeing and see if it leads to positive results. Their focus has been on the brain or people's lives.

MAP is a unique program for achieving better wellbeing. It is also utilised in research studies. See How MAP works

“ Happier individuals are more likely to live longer ”

The brain

The brain is the main focus of how better wellbeing is achieved inside the human body. This field is called neuroscience. Neuroscientists have found that better wellbeing affects how the brain functions and can lead to changes to its structure.

The brain, of course, also interacts and influences the rest of the body such as the endocrine (hormones), cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) and immune (fighting infection) systems.

Function

Studies have found, for example, that neurotransmitters (natural brain chemicals) such as dopamine are increased when you have better wellbeing. One mechanism is that dopamine embeds a positive feedback loop, so when you respond to something positive in your life, this makes you better able to seek and receive something else positive at a later time.

Research has also looked at well known centres in the brain using imaging technology. A 2009 study found that positive mood led to increased activity of the brain centre associated with increased curiosity and creativity.

Structure

Neuroscientists looking at, for instance, mindfulness training (a type of meditation linked to improved wellbeing in psychological studies) have shown increased nerve tissue in parts of the brain that are believed to regulate your thought processes and emotion.

Health and living longer

Scientists have found that better wellbeing has a strong association with the physical body systems underlying health, disease and living longer. It can also help improve your lifestyle behaviours.

Key benefits from the research include:

  • Positive feelings help reduce inflammatory, neuro-endocrine (hormone) problems and cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) function
  • Better wellbeing is associated with improved mental and psychological health
  • High subjective wellbeing helps you to stop smoking, eat a healthy diet, do exercise, lose weight.
  • Positive emotions can speed up recovery from injury and disease.
  • Positive mood is associated with lower rates of viral infections, stroke and heart disease.
  • Happier individuals are more likely to live longer. For example, a 2015 worldwide study of older-aged people who had higher subjective wellbeing found a 300% increased chance of being alive 8.5 years later.
  • Better subjective wellbeing has the same positive impact on living longer as not smoking.
“ Unemployed people who are happier are more likely to get a job within a year ”

Personal and social benefits

Research shows that better wellbeing can improve your ability to integrate information and broaden your focus of attention. This can lead to improved behaviour and decision-making, which lead to personal and social benefits.

Here are standout findings:

  • People with higher wellbeing and positive mood are more willing to not accept an immediate, smaller benefit, in order to obtain a larger benefit in the future. This shows increased ability to delay gratification.
  • Happier individuals tend to:
    • spend less and save more
    • take more time when making decisions
    • have higher life expectations
  • Wellbeing increases interest in social activities.
  • Unemployed people who are happier are more likely to get a job within a year.
  • Higher life satisfaction is associated with lower risk-taking behaviour like not wearing seatbelts and being involved in automobile accidents.
  • Greater subjective wellbeing makes you more likely to donate blood, time and money.

Work and workplace benefits

According to scientists, happiness can achieve work and workplace benefits through a number of processes.

Internal processes include, for example, improved motivation and integration of information. External processes include, for instance, better relationships and cooperation.

Key benefits from the research:

  • Happiness can increase curiosity, creativity and motivation.
  • Happy people are more likely to engage cooperatively and collaboratively during negotiations.
  • People with positive emotions are more productive.
  • Happy workers are more likely to be rated highly for financial performance and generally by their supervisors.
  • Greater satisfaction amongst employees is associated with better revenue, sales and profits.
  • Wellbeing is associated with increased clarity about roles and responsibilities and how to accomplish tasks ahead of deadlines.
  • Better wellbeing reduces employee turnover, sick days and absenteeism.
  • Happiness at a point in time in your working life is associated with higher income later in your life

References

Baard P.P., Deci E.L., & Ryan R.M. (2004) Intrinsic Need Satisfaction - A Motivational basis of performance and Well-being in work settings. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2004, 34, 10, pp. 2045-2068.

Bartles M. Genetics of Wellbeing and Its Components Satisfaction with Life, Happiness, and Quality of Life: A Review and Meta-analysis of Heritability Studies. Behav Genet, 2015;45:137–156

Bloomer E. Workplace interventions to improve health and wellbeing. Institute of Healthy Equity, Public Health England. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/355773/Briefing5a_Workplace_interventions_health_inequalities.pdf

Buunk, B. P., Doosje, B. J., Jans, L. G. J. M., & Hopstaken, L. E. M. (1993). Perceived reciprocity, social support, and stress at work: The role of exchange and communal orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 801-811.

De Neve J-E, et al. Objective Benefits of Subjective Wellbeing. Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics. http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1236.pdf

Dirks, K. T., & Ferrin, D. L. (2002). Trust in leadership: Meta-analytic findings and implications for research and practice. Journal of Applied Psychol- ogy, 87, 611-628.

Forgeard MJC, et al. Doing the right thing: Measuring wellbeing for public policy. Int Journ Wellbeing, 2011;1(1):79-106.

Frei, R. I., & McDaniel, M. A. (1998). Validity of customer service measures in personnel selection. Human Performance, 11, 1-27.

Gatt J, et al. Mental wellbeing: Measurement and intervention using a neuroscience framework. As yet unpublished.

Gummer, B. (2001). Peer relationships in organizations: Mutual assistance, employees with disabilities, and distributive justice. Administration in Social Work, 25, 85-103

House, J. A. (1981). Work stress and social support. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 268-279.

Isen., A., M., (2001) An Influence of Positive Affect on Decision Making in Complex Situations: Theoretical Issues With Practical Implications. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 11(2), 75-85.

Judge, T. A., & Bono, J. E. (2001). Relationship of core self-evaluation traits-self-esteem, general-ized self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability-with job satisfaction and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 80-92.

Loscocco, K. A., & Spitze, G. (1990). Working conditions, social support, and the well-being of female and male factory workers. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 31, 313-327

Karasek, R., Baker, D., Marxer, F., Ahlbom, A., & Theorell, T. (1981). Job decision latitude, job demands, and cardiovascular disease: A prospective study of Swedish men. American Journal of Public Health, 71, 694-705.

Ones, D. S., Viswesvaran, C., & Schmidt, F. L. (1993). Comprehensive meta-analysis of integrity test validities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 679 -703.

Steptoe A and Wardle J. Enjoying life and Living longer. Arch Intern Med, 2012;172(3):273275

Steptoe A, et al. Psychological wellbeing, health and ageing. Lancet. 2015 Feb 14; 385(9968): 640–648.

Sutcliffe, K. M., & Vogus, T. J. (2003). Organizing for resilience. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 94-110). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Taylor, S., E., (2008) Fostering a Supportive Environment At Work. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 11: 265-283

Towers Watson, (2012) Global Workforce Study - Engagement at Risk: Driving Strong Performance in a Volatile Global Environment.

Vinchur, A. J., Schippmann, J. S., Switzer, F. S., III, & Roth, P. L. (1998). A meta-analytic review of predictors of job performance for salespeople. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 586-597.

© 2010 - 2017
© 2010 - 2017