Wellbeing ESRC Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Manchester Metropolitan University
Manchester Metropolitan University logo
ESRC logo

Seminar 2

Work, Employment, Leisure and Wellbeing


Speaker's notes

Antonella Delle Fave Optimal Experience at Work and Bio-Cultural Selection
John Haworth Work, Leisure and Wellbeing
Dr. Tess Kay Leisure, Gender and Family: challenges for work-life integration
Suzan Lewis Work-Life Integration
Professor Ray Pahl Social Support and Well Being
Peter Warr Employment, Work and Well-being
Michael White Conditions for Wellbeing in Working Life: Evidence from the Working in Britain 2000 Survey
Professor Ken Roberts Afterword
Download a front cover
for these notes.
PDF file MS Word document


Optimal Experience at Work and Bio-Cultural Selection

Antonella Delle Fave
Department of Preclinical Sciences LITA Vialba, University of Milano - Italy

This contribution analyzes subjective experience within an evolutionary framework, considering the individual as an open and self-organizing system, interacting with two inheritance systems: biology and culture (Durham, 1982; Boyd and Richerson, 1985).
This perspective differs from evolutionary psychology (Barkow, Cosmides, and Tooby, 1992), in that it emphasizes the active influence of individuals on bio-cultural evolution. Throughout their lives humans interact with both inheritance systems by means of daily psychological selection (Csikszentmihalyi and Massimini, 1985), actively replicating subsets of biological and cultural instructions (genes and memes, Dawkins, 1976) in phenotypic behavior.
The quality of experience people associate with daily activities and situations plays a key role in this process, influencing behavior and psychological selection. Several studies pointed out that individuals preferentially invest their psychic resources in activities associated with rewarding and challenging states of consciousness, in particular with Flow, or Optimal Experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 1985; Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi, 1988). In optimal experience individuals report the perception of high environmental challenges, matched by adequate personal skills, deep concentration, involvement, enjoyment, control of the situation, clear-cut feedback on the course of the activity, and intrinsic motivation (Deci and Ryan, 1985).
Cross-cultural studies showed that optimal experience can occur in any daily context: work, socializing, leisure. However, the situation should be challenging enough to require active engagement, and to promote satisfaction in the use of personal skills. As a consequence, repetitive and simple tasks are only occasionally associated with optimal experience. On the contrary, creative activities in every domain - work, leisure, social interaction - are widely reported (Massimini and Delle Fave, 2000). Optimal experience fosters individual development thanks to its dynamic structure: the perception of high challenges in the associated activities promotes the increase in related skills. This encourages the search for more complex opportunities for action, that in turn will require higher capabilities. This preferential lifelong cultivation of specific activities and interests is the core component of psychological selection.
The impact of the individual quality of experience on the transmission of bio-cultural information can be more clearly detected through the analysis of the experience at work reported by professionals who play a key role in the survival and reproduction of biological and cultural information: physicians and teachers, respectively.
The relationship between quality of experience at work and quality of performance has been widely assessed. As concerns physicians, several studies have stressed the role of autonomy, challenge, and positive interactions within the work team in promoting job satisfaction and effective intervention (Dunstone and Reames, 2001). Patient satisfaction has been related to symptomatic improvement and functional status (Jackson, Chamberlin, and Kroenke, 2001), but also to doctors' involvement, communication style, and empathic approach (Glass, 1996; Roter et al., 1997). As concerns teachers, the quality of experience they report at work plays a central role in the educational process. It influences the effectiveness of cultural transmission and students’ desire for learning (Csikszentmihalyi, 1982; Evans, 1997; Ilatov et al, 1998; Lepper and Cordova, 1992; Richer and Vallerand, 1995; Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, and Hampston, 1998).
To investigate this issue from the perspective of optimal experience and psychological selection, 80 primary and secondary school teachers and 60 physicians were administered a Flow Questionnaire and a Life Theme Questionnaire (Delle Fave and Massimini, 1988; Massimini, Inghilleri, and Delle Fave, 1996). Among other topics, these two instruments investigated activities and situations associated with optimal experience, and the average quality of experience reported in these activities, and in other daily situations - such as work. The personal and environmental factors fostering positive and negative work experiences were also explored.
All the teachers and 48 physicians associated one or more activities of their lives with optimal experience. The most frequent activity quoted by teachers was reading, followed by teaching. Among physicians, work ranked first, followed by practicing sports and reading. The psychological features of optimal experience, assessed through 0-8 Likert scales, matched the theoretical expectations. Moreover, the average quality of experience reported in work activities, and assessed by means of the same scales, was quite positive for both samples, with only few variables scoring significantly lower than in optimal experience.
Most of the participants reported intrinsic motivation, interest, and self-actualization as the basic reasons for choosing their job. Both groups quoted as the most positive work situations the interaction with patients and students respectively, the opportunity to cope with complex challenges, and the rewarding results deriving from the use of professional skills. On the opposite, they associated the most negative experiences with failures to achieve goals, bureaucratic tasks, and interpersonal problems with colleagues and supervisors.
For both groups, work represented an opportunity for involvement, engagement and intrinsic rewards. At the same time, good relationships among colleagues and with students and patients were key factors for job satisfaction. This is a very relevant issue at the bio-cultural level. Several researchers have pointed out that the affective climate perceived in the classroom fosters students’ involvement and active participation in classes. The impact of teachers as behavioral models can be crucial for the students' subsequent career choices, and for promoting both autonomy and relatedness in youth (Flink, Boggiano, and Barrett, 1990; Ryan and Powelson, 1991; Reeve, 1998). As concerns physicians, the positive relationship with patients has been widely recognized as a crucial factor to enhance patients’ compliance and effective coping with symptoms (Di Caccavo, Ley, and Reid, 2000). Physicians who pay attention to their patients’ perceived quality of life, and adopt a bio-psycho-social approach in their intervention are ultimately more successful in getting patients’ collaboration in the domains of prevention and treatment (Majani, Pierobon, Giardini and Callegari, 2000; Williams, Freedman, and Deci, 1998).
These findings suggest a connection between quality of experience at work and work performance for both teachers and physicians, and the influence of this connection on the wellbeing of students and patients. In the long term, this process contributes to shape cultural and biological transmission and evolution, and this should be taken into account in health and education policies.

Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J, The adapted mind: Evolutionary pychology and the generation of culture, New York: Oxford University Press.
Boyd, R., & Richerson, P.J. (1985). Culture and the Evolutionary Process. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Burke, R., Greenglass, E.R., & Schwarzer, R. (1996). Predicting teacher burnout over time: effects of work stress, social support, and self-doubts on burnout and its consequences. In Anxiety, Stress and Coping: an International Journal, 9, 261-275.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975) Beyond Boredom and Anxiety, San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1982). Intrinsic motivation and effective teaching: a Flow analysis. In Bess (Ed.) Motivating professors to teach effectively, 15-26. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1985). Emergent motivation and the evolution of the self. In Kleiber D., Maehr M.H. (Eds.) Motivation in Adulthood, 93-113. Greenwich: Jai Press.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. (Eds.) (1988) Optimal Experience. Psychological studies of Flow in Consciousness, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Massimini, F. (1985). On the psychological selection of bio-cultural information. New Ideas in Psychology, 3, 115-138.
Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.
Delle Fave A., & Massimini F. (1988). Modernization and the Changing Contexts of Flow in Work and Leisure. In Csikszentmihalyi M., Csikszentmihalyi I. (Eds.), Optimal Experience. Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness, 193-213. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Di Caccavo, A., Ley, A., & Reid, F. (2000). What do general practitioners discuss with their patients? Journal of Health Psychology, 5, 87-97.
Dunstone, D.C., & Reames Jr., H.R. (2001). Physician satisfaction revised. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 825-837.
Durham, W.H. (1982). Interactions of genetic and cultural evolution: models and examples. Human Ecology, 10, 289-323.
Evans, L. (1997). Understandig teacher morale and job satisfaction. Teaching and Teacher Education, 13, 831-845.
Flink, C., Boggiano, A.K., & Barrett M. (1990). Controlling teaching strategies: undermining children’s self-determination and performance. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 59, 916-924.
Glass, R.M. (1996). The patient-physician relationship. JAMA focuses on the center of medicine. JAMA, 275, 147-148.
Ilatov, Z.Z., Shamai, S., Hertz-Lazarovitz, R., & Mayer-Young, S. (1998). Teacher-student classroom interaction: the influence of gender, academic dominance, and teacher communication style. Adolescence, 33, 269-277.
Jackson, J.L., Chamberlin, J., & Kroenke, K. (2001). Predictors of patient satisfaction. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 609-620.
Lepper, M.R., & Cordova, D.I. (1992). A desire to be taught: instructional consequences of intrinsic motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 187-208.
Majani, G., Pierobon, A., Giardini, A., & Callegari, S. (2999). Satisfaction profile (SAT_P) in 732 patients: focus on subjectivity in HRQoL assessment. Psychology and Health, 15, 409-422.
Massimini, F., & Delle Fave, A. (2000). Individual development in a bio-cultural perspective. American Psychologist, 55, 24-33.
Massimini, F., Inghilleri, P., & Delle Fave, A. (Eds.) (1996). La selezione psicologica umana [Human psychological selection]. Milano: Cooperativa Libraria IULM.
Reeve, J. (1998). Autonomy support as an interpersonal motivating style: is it teachable? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 23, 312-330.
Richer, S.F., & Vallerand, R.J. (1995). Supervisors’ interactional styles and subordinates’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The Journal of Social Psychology, 135, 707-722.
Roter, D.L., Stewart, M., Putnam, S.M., Lipkin Jr., M., Stiles, W., & Inui, T.S. (1997). Communication patterns of primary care physicians. JAMA, 277, 350-356.
Ryan, R.M., & Powelson, C.L. (1991). Autonomy and relatedness as fundamental to motivation and education. Motivation and Emotion, 60, 49-66.
Wharton-McDonald, R., Pressley, M., & Hampston, J.M. (1998). Literacy instruction in nine first-grade classrooms: teacher characteristics and student achievement. Elementary School Journal, 99, 101-128.
Williams, G.C., Freedman, Z.R., & Deci, E.L. (1998). Supporting autonomy to motivate patients with diabetes for glucose control. Diabetes Care, 21, 1644-1651.Short CV
Antonella Delle Fave, M.D., specialized in Psychology, is professor of Psychology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Milano. She conducted cross-cultural studies on psychological selection and the quality of experience in daily life. At present her research focus is the daily experience of disabled persons in Europe and Asia. She collaborates in international cooperation projects.


Work, Leisure and Wellbeing

John Haworth

Psychology Department, Manchester Metropolitan University.


This presentation will talk about the importance of both work and leisure for wellbeing
Work has been with us a long time. Tools made to a common pattern have been discovered two million years old. Some anthropologists argue that interaction with the physical and social environment (work) led to the development of both tools and the organism, stimulating our evolution (Ingold 2000). Work can be considered central to human functioning. Both Marx and Freud extolled the potential importance of work for the individual and society. Kohn and Schooler (1983) indicate that where work has substantive complexity there is an improvement in mental flexibility and self-esteem.
Yet the Hebrew view of work was that it was imposed on mankind to expiate the original sin committed by its forefathers. While the Greeks and Romans viewed agriculture as noble work, in general they had a negative attitude to physical labour. The rise of Protestantism in the sixteenth century broadened the type of work that was of service to God. But this did not include sociability at work, which only led to loss of time which could be devoted to God. The industrial revolution, and Fordism and Taylorism, called for an increasingly disciplined labour force, one which would not sanction ‘Saint Monday’, which workers often took as holiday after the weekend.
The material success of industry and technology in the twentieth century led to the possibility of a Leisure Society being discussed. But this was short lived. By the 1990’s working hours began to rise again. Critcher and Bramham, (forthcoming) discuss recent trends in work, family and leisure in the UK. They consider that ‘The common experience of those selling labour power has been the actual intensification of work’ and that ours has become a more work centred society. Leete (2000) in ‘Working Time’ states that much work by women, including child rearing, was done in the home, but that consumerism now drives women out to work and still do child rearing. Gershuny (2000) analysing time use statistics in the UK, states that where wives move from being non-employed to take full time jobs, they reduce their housework by about 10 hours per week, and their husbands increase theirs by about four hours per week. Gershuny advocates that we should take the path chosen by the Nordic countries where males do not work excessively long hours, and share the domestic work more equally. This allows both partners to develop their careers, and also allows time to engage in enjoyable leisure consumption, which can aid wellbeing and create jobs. Of course, to do this the Government and employers have to implement more ‘family friendly’ policies; and the culture of working long hours to impress has to change. Equally, the design of jobs should incorporate time to react to the unexpected, other than by just working longer and longer hours. Yet if ‘globalisation’ is not managed well, such policies will be difficult to implement.
The more distant horizon described by post-industrial theorists, such as Beck (2000) and Gorz (1999) again features a leisure society resulting from automation. A socially guaranteed income would enable leisure to become a central life interest, where leisure is viewed as the free and full development of the individual in a harmonistic, mutual relation with civil society. At the same time work would be undertaken as ‘civil labour’. Rojec (forthcoming) notes that critics consider post-industrial theorists to be woolly about the mechanisms of distributive justice, and the rights, responsibilities and obligations of citizenship under a leisure society. He further notes that civil labour will require World Government, if it is not to be utopian.
Employment is the source of much work. Here the wage relationship provides traction for people to engage in work, which they may or may not find enjoyable. Jahoda (1982) claims that employment automatically provides five categories of experience which are important for wellbeing. These are: time structure, social contact, collective effort or purpose, social identity or status, and regular activity.
(They have been incorporated in the environmental factors proposed by Warr, 1987, as important for wellbeing). Jahoda emphasises that in modern society it is the social institution of employment which is the main provider of these five categories of experience. While recognising that other institutions may enforce one or more of these categories of experience, Jahoda stresses that none of them combine them all with as compelling a reason as earning a living. Jahoda does recognise that the quality of experience of some jobs can be very poor and stresses the importance of improving and humanising employment.
Leisure. It has long been accepted that it is difficult to define work and leisure. At one time an activity can be considered by a person as work, another time as leisure. Iso-Ahola (1997) and Iso-Ahola and Mannel (forthcoming) recognise that many people are stressed because of financial difficulties and the dominance of work, and that leisure is used for recuperation from work. The result is a passive leisure life style and a reactive approach to personal health. They argue on the basis of considerable research that active leisure is important for health and wellbeing. Iso-Ahola (1997) states that participation in both physical and non-physical leisure activities has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, produce positive moods, and enhance self- esteem and self- concept, facilitate social interaction, increase general psychological wellbeing and life satisfaction, and improve cognitive functioning. Of course, leisure is not a panacea. If it is used as avoidance behaviour in order not to face up to something that has to be done, it can increase stress.
Stebbins (1992,1997, forthcoming) argues that an optimal leisure life style includes both serious and casual leisure. His extensive studies of serious leisure activities, such as astronomy, archaeology, music, singing, sports, and career volunteering, show that it is defined by six distinguishing qualities. These are: the occasional need to persevere at it; the development of the activity as in a career; the requirement for effort based on specialized knowledge, training or skill; the provision of durable benefits or rewards; the identification of the person with the activity; the production of an ethos and social world. It also offers a distinctive set of rewards, satisfying as a counterweight to the costs involved.
Work-life balance. Primeau (1996) argues that it is not possible to say what is a healthy work-life balance. He suggests that occupational psychologists should examine the range of affective experiences that occur during engagement in one’s customary round of occupations in daily life. He sites an important example being research into ‘flow’ experiences in daily life.
Flow, enjoyment and well being. Our research at Manchester into ‘flow’, where high challenges are met with equal skills, has shown that when this is enjoyable it correlates with wellbeing (Clarke & Haworth 1994). Flow was found to occur more frequently in employment than in leisure (Haworth &Hill 1992; Haworth & Evans 1995). The research also found that high enjoyment could come from non-challenging activities (Clarke & Haworth 1994, Haworth & Evans 1995) ( See Haworth, 1997, for a summary)
The Future. Our post-modern condition is characterised by diversity, uncertainty, and threats and opportunities. Now that the intimate interplay between emotions and cognitions is increasingly recognised, and consciousness is rooted in lived experience, enhancing wellbeing may be contingent upon feeling our way into the future.

Selected References.
Beck, U. (2000) The brave new world of work. Oxford: Blackwell/Polity Press
Critcher, C. & Bramham, P. The devil still makes work. In J.T. Haworth and A.J.Veal eds The future of work and leisure. London: Routledge (Forthcoming)
Gershuny, J. (1999) The work /leisure balance and the new political economy of time. Paper presented at Lectures on Challenge of the New Millennium, hosted by Tony Blair. Available from Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex.
Gorz, A. (1999) Reclaiming work: beyond the wage-based society Oxford: Blackwell/Polity Press
Haworth, J.T (1997) Work, leisure and wellbeing London: Routledge.
Ingold,T. (2000) The perception of the environment London: Routledge.
Iso-Ahola, S. (1997) A psychological analysis of leisure and health. In J.T. Haworth Work, leisure and wellbeing London: Routledge.
Iso-Ahola, S. & Mannelll, R. C. Leisure and health. In J.T. Haworth and A.J.Veal eds The future of work and leisure. London: Routledge (Forthcoming)
Jahoda, M. (1982) Employment and unemployment: a social psychological analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kohn, M.& Schooler, M. (1983) Work and personality: an enquiry into the impact of social stratification. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Leete, L. (2000) History and housework: implications for work hours and family policy in market economies. In L.Golden and D.M.Figart Working time: international trends, theory and policy perspectives. London: Routledge.
Primeau.L.A. (1996) Work and leisure: transcending the dichotomy. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 50, 7, 569-77.
Rojek, C. Postmodern work and leisure. In J.T. Haworth and A.J.Veal eds The future of work and leisure. London: Routledge (Forthcoming)
Stebbins. R.A. (1992) Amateurs, professionals and serious leisure. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Stebbins. R.A. (1997) Serious leisure and wellbeing. In J.T. Haworth Work, leisure and wellbeing London: Routledge.
Stebbins. R.A. Serious leisure, volunteerism and quality of life. In J.T. Haworth and A.J.Veal eds The future of work and leisure. London: Routledge (Forthcoming)
Warr, P. (1987) Work, unemployment and mental health. Oxford: Clarendon Press.



Leisure, Gender and Family: challenges for work-life integration

Dr Tess Kay

Institute of Sport and Leisure Policy, Loughborough University

This paper addresses two simple questions: firstly, what is the relevance of leisure to the contemporary debate about work-life balance/integration, and secondly, what do the findings of leisure research contribute to our understanding of individual and family capacity for achieving this? The particular thrust of the paper is to concentrate on the strongly gendered nature of family life, and to examine how a focus on leisure behaviour can contribute an additional dimension to our understanding of how this arises. Leisure is significant, it will be argued here, because it remains the area of relative freedom – where individuals exercise choice. Within family households, however, the capacity of male and female partners to individually exercise choice is highly contingent upon explicit or implicit negotiation between them. Countless studies have now shown us that the overall outcomes of such negotiation processes are typically highly gendered, as evidenced by data on men and women’s unequal contributions to domestic tasks. The paper suggests that leisure is another highly gendered area of everyday life, and one which is a qualitatively different from either paid or domestic labour. The study of leisure therefore has a contribution to make, through both its subject matter and its methodological approaches, to our understanding of the significance of gender and family in achieving work-life integration.
The paper begins with a straightforward attempt to bring leisure into the picture. At an everyday level leisure is central to individuals’ notions of ‘proper’ family life (‘happy families’) and it is self-evidently implicit in concepts of life ‘balance’ or ‘integration’. Outside the specialist field of Leisure Studies, however, it is not so evident in family-related social science research, where free-time activities are usually conflated within the ‘family’ domain. To counter this omission the paper provides a brief review of quantitative and qualitative dimensions of leisure, highlighting the prominence of leisure in daily life and the distinctiveness of this area from other aspects of family activity. In particular, it proposes that the distinction between the supposed freedoms of leisure and the obligations of domestic labour are so strong that it is appropriate to replace the work-family couplet with the work-family–leisure triad. This framework then provides the basis for the paper’s subsequent analysis.
The second part of the paper examines empirical evidence of the role of leisure in households, and its interaction with work and family (domestic labour) activities. Key differences are found between men’s ability to preserve personal leisure time, and the much more limited capacity of women to do so. The analysis draws on a range of qualitative studies to suggest that these contrasts indicate a more fundamental divide in men and women’s approaches to reconciling the interests of ‘self’ with those of ‘family’. The consequence of this is that as individuals, men and women appear to give different priority to the work, family and leisure domains of their collective life, whilst simultaneously striving to achieve a mutually satisfying joint lifestyle. A frequent result is that the companionate marriages to which Ray Pahl refers may be characterised by a level of tension that may not only be damaging to individuals but may limit the capacity of households to achieve, collectively, the necessary integration of their work and non-work activities.
The third substantial part of the paper adopts a more analytical approach to the processes through which these inequalities arise. Evidence from women who have sought to change inequitable relationships, but for the most part failed to do so, is used to illuminate the apparent limits to domestic negotiation processes. Particular attention is paid to the extent to which differences in the two sexes’ sense of entitlement to personal leisure has a broader significance for contemporary gender relations, and is instrumental in encouraging men and women to actively reproduce traditional gender ideologies and practices in the private sphere.
The paper concludes with a discussion of the extent to which gender relations in the home pose an obstacle to the work-life integration/ balance project. While the challenges of achieving integration may be a consequence of the burden of collective activity patterns, responses to these challenges may be more individualised. Households do not necessarily respond in unity to difficulties; instead, men and women may adopt separate and potentially conflicting strategies. This in turn may reflect different perceptions of what constitutes an appropriate ‘balance’ of activities. Leisure research helps illuminate these differences by highlighting the different experience that men and women have of the home environment and the different priorities that they give to the elements of the work-family-leisure triad. To conceptualise leisure as a wholly or even primarily residual category of experience may therefore underplay its significance as a domain of relative freedom and a primary site in which responses to social change can be actively constructed by men and women. The recognition of this can contribute, at both a conceptual and empirical level, to a holistic understanding of contemporary lived experience. It raises questions, however, about the extent to which we can realistically talk of families, collectively, being equipped to resolve the work-life dilemma.

Work-Life Integration

Suzan Lewis
Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University

Work-life issues and especially work-life “balance” have become hot topics in recent Government and employer discussions (e.g. DfEE, 2000 ), in the media and in everyday language. In this paper I use the term work-life integration in preference to work-life balance, to denote an ideal of being able to integrate work and personal lives in positive ways rather than seeing them as two separate (and by implication incompatible) areas of life that have to be “balanced”. Whatever the terminology used, however, the work-life debate, has grown out of a long tradition of research and discussion of the interface between work and the rest of life. This has become ever more pressing in the contemporary context. As time expands in the global 24-hour market place and space and distance are compressed by information and communication technology, temporal and spatial boundaries between paid work and personal life have become increasingly blurred. This may bring new opportunities and horizons for the most highly educated and skilled to work when and where they choose, but it also presents new challenges. For some, work is increasingly interesting, absorbing and challenging, but it can also crowd out personal life and obligations. Others experience uncertainty and intensification of wok which can deplete energy for other activities (Burchall et al, 1999). For yet others, of course, there is too much personal time and not enough work.
In this paper I focus on those in work, and the issues of integrating paid work with personal life, be it family obligations or leisure. I begin by examining the background to current work-life debates, discuss why these issues have become particularly significant in the contemporary context and explore a range of explanations of why work is increasingly crowding out time and for personal life. The paper concludes with some preliminary evidence that working practices and cultures hostile to work-life integration are being challenged to some extent, but also raises ongoing issues about the changing nature of work and its role in people’s lives.

Background to work-life debates
Research on work-life issues, or as they were initially conceived, work-family issues began in the 1960s, stimulated by the influx of women, especially mothers into all areas of the labour market. Work-family discussions and the associated family friendly policy agenda never quite managed to throw off the implication that this was solely a woman’s issue. Current work-life debates aim to be more inclusive, embracing the needs of men as well as women, of those with family responsibilities other than children, and, importantly, the needs of those who just want to “have a life” beyond the workplace. The initial emphasis was on the potential stress and conflict involved in managing both work and non work (especially family) roles. The evidence was not, however, entirely negative. Multiple roles can create the potential for stress and conflict but can also create opportunities for multiple sources of satisfaction and well being. A current concern, however, is that changes in the nature of work, employment often leaves little time for other activities and sources of satisfaction

Why is work crowding out personal life/family/leisure for so many people?
Some low paid workers have always needed to work long hours in demanding work to make a living, often in more than one job. What is different now is that it is not just the low paid who are working longer and more intensively, and extra hours are not always associated with additional pay. Moreover, flexibility and autonomy over working hours, far from reducing the pressure of work demands are frequently associated with greater conscientiousness, longer working hours and blurred temporal boundaries between work and personal life ((Hochschild, 1997; Perlow, 1998, Lewis et al, 2001). A number of overlapping explanations of this phenomenon will be considered:

• Organisational change: organisational responses to global competition and cost cutting exercises mean that fewer people are doing more work, so that higher workloads are inevitable. This creates an intensification of work which often spills over into non work time.
• Work as a refuge from home: the nature of the work performed by many workers is becoming more absorbing and satisfying. Arlie Hochschild (1997) has argued that many people choose to spend more time at work because this has become more satisfying than home. Work is becoming the new community and the new leisure
• Unrealistic demands of self: fundamental psychological patterns and cultural values which equate self worth with hard work (in paid employment) drive those high in “mastery orientation” (Kofodimos, 1993). This together with notions of professional identity, and an ethos unstinting service to the client or customer (Anderson-Gough et al, 2000) are associated with unrealistic workloads and self expectations. This then sets standards which others are expected to follow.
• Organisational culture: when commitment and productivity are difficult to quantify, as they are in most “knowledge work”, then they are often measured by workers’ willingness to work late to meet a series of deadlines, or simply to get the work done. (Lewis, 1997; Perlow, 1998; Rapoport et al, 2002) The prevailing assumption that only those who are working long hours are committed or productive obscures the value of alternative, and often more efficient ways of working which employees often develop in order to meet the demands of work and non work responsibilities
• Gendered organisations: organisational cultures are not gender neutral, (Acker, 1990). They typically privilege “male” definitions of commitment and competency, based on the assumed separation of the public and private spheres (Rapoport et al, 2002). This serves the needs of neither women nor men, nor their organisations, and undermines possibilities for work-life integration
• Blurred spatial and temporal boundaries: information and communication technology enables people to work in the home, on trains, planes or elsewhere at any time. This can enhance the ability to integrate work and personal life. On the other hand, it can be argued that distributed work enables work to intrude into every area of life so that there can be no way of escaping from work. The impact of blurred boundaries are also gendered (Sullivan and Lewis, 2001).

Evidence of an emerging counter-culture.
Evidence is beginning to emerge of a new counterculture, whereby younger workers in particular are recognising the importance of “having a life” and rejecting total involvement in work as not only undesirable but also counter productive (Lewis and Smithson, 2001; Lewis et al, 2001). However, while the gendered, long hours culture is presented as part of the taken for granted shared knowledge in most organisations, the counterculture is, at present constructed as an individual insight that is not yet widely legitimated.

Questions for the future
In many ways, research on work-life issues and blurred temporal and spatial boundaries raises more questions than it answers. What is work in the contemporary context and how does it differ from non work activities, if at all? Is work the new leisure for some people and if so, what are the implications for the well being of not only individuals but also families and communities? The work-life discourse was an attempt to broaden work-family debates. Do we need to put family back on the agenda?
Much of the current research on “work-life balance” focuses on the identification of “good practice”. However, I will argue that good practice conceptualised in terms of human resource policies directed at individuals without addressing more fundamental issues of gender, work and its place in people’s lives is likely to be of limited value.

Acker, J. (1990) Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: a theory of gendered organizations. Gender and Society 4 139-158
Anderson-Gough, F Grey, C and Robson, K (2000). In the name of the client: the service ethic in two professional service firms. Human Relations. 53 9 1151-1174
Burchall, B., Day, D., Hudson, M., Lapido, D., Nolan, J., Reed, H., Wichert, I., and Wilkinson, E. (1999) , Job Insecurity and Work Intensification. Flexibility and the Changing Boundaries of Work, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
DfEE, (2000), Creating a Work-Life Balance. A Good Practice Guide for Employers
Hochschild, A. (1997) The Time Bind. When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. New York: Henry Holt
Kofodimos, J. (1993) Balancing Act. How managers can integrate successful career and fulfilling personal lives. San Francisco: Jossey Bass
Lewis, S. (1997) Family friendly organizational policies: a route to organizational change or playing about at the margins, Gender, Work and Organisation 4, 13-23.
Lewis, S and Smithson, J. (2001, forthcoming) Sense of entitlement to support for the reconciliation of employment and family life Human Relations
Lewis, S., Cooper, C., Smithson, J and Dyer, J. (2001) Flexible Futures Phase Two. Report to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.Perlow, L.(1998) Boundary control: the social ordering of work and family time in a high tech organisation Administrative Science Quarterly 43 328-357
Rapoport, R., Bailyn, L., Fletcher, J and Pruitt, B. (forthcoming) Beyond Work-FamilyBalance: Advancing Gender Equity & Work Performance. Jossey-Bass
Sullivan, C and Lewis, S (2001) Home-based telework, gender and the synchronisation of work and family; perspectives of teleworkers and their co-residents. Gender, Work and Organisation. 8,2 123-145



Social Support and Well Being

Professor Ray Pahl
ISER, University of Essex

The importance of social support for health and well being is now supported by an almost overwhelming body of hard empirical evidence. In terms of health Lisa Berkman has recently argued “Heart disease, stroke, cancer and all other causes of death show increased risks with isolation. Overall people are about twice as likely to die from a wide range of diseases if they are isolated compared to those with more contacts”. (2000:10)
Those more focussed on stress theory have also emphasised social support. Peggy Thoits has claimed that from 1985 to 1995 over 3000 papers on “stress and health” were published in psychological and sociological journals alone.
Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, most of this research has taken place in the USA and there are indications that the USA does not necessarily fit the general pattern found in economically advanced Western societies. Robert Lane remarks in his magisterial work on The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies that the “decline in happiness is largely an American phenomenon” (2000:21). Thus, if America is an exceptionally dysfunctional society we should, perhaps, be wary of extrapolating ideas about social support, social capital and similar approaches to individual and collective well-being to other, possibly more cohesive and integrated societies such as Denmark in the Netherlands. It is arguable whether the UK is moving towards the unhappy American pattern or to the more supportive pattern of some other European Societies. Certainly, as the recent summary OECD Report on The Well-Being of Nations demonstrates, there are a variety of factors at the societal level that affect the significance and importance of social capital (of which social support is a major component) in generating and supporting economic and social well-being.
So whilst the importance of social relationships on well-being is now uncontested, it is understandable that the concern now is how well-being may be improved through developing “better social support”. My own research has been on friends and friendship and I am frequently asked whether those who are friend-rich have some psychological or social preconditions that dispose them to be more friendly or attractive as potential friends. There is the further criticism that friend-like relations are more likely to develop in certain societal, organisational or local contexts than others, depending on the social conditions that underpin trust.
Interestingly, it appears that rigorous research has shown that if controls for biological and personality variables are made, this does not explain away the associations between social support and health. As James House and his colleagues put it “social relationships have a predictive, arguably causal, association with health in their own right” (1988:544).
Following the impetus provided by Richard Wilkinson and others, the issue has now been reformulated in terms of the types of societies in which the putative benign social relationships are embedded. In general, it appears that the greater the span of inequality in society, the greater the unease of “unhappiness” or ill-health. The implication is that the way we organise our societies has a direct effect on the quality of social relationships in those societies with clear consequent effects on health and well-being.
My own contribution to this debate focuses on friendship as a crucial element of social support and social capital. Are our friendships becoming more shallow, superficial and instrumental or are we becoming better at communicating and revealing our thoughts and feelings to others, so deepening the quality of the relationships? In our recently completed ESRC research on this theme (R000237836) we have some solid evidence that bears on this question. We show that people have a repertoire of friends and that some may, as it were, disaggegate their friendship portfolio into constituent strands, as well as having one or two best friends or soul mates. With the growth of companioniate marriage, partners are substituting same sex friends to some degree but, of course, close marriages do not necessarily inhibit close friends outside marriage.
The result of our research – which will be enlarged upon at the seminar, indicate that people live in personal communities (PCs) that provide the basic co-ordinates of their social support. These PCs may vary along a variety of dimensions and provide a more robust and empirically well-grounded way of analysing social support. Of course, it is bound to be the case that some individuals are potentially more vulnerable than others and this would obviously be the case of a couple heavily dependent on each other with no close friends outside their marriage and with no other familial links of high quality. Should one partner die the surviving partner might be at greater risk for illness that would someone with strong ‘friends of virtue’ in Aristotle’s phrase, outside marriage.
The interesting research question is how far wider trends in society make such vulnerability more or less likely. The aim of this paper is to show that contrary to the Jeremiad statements of some commentators and moral entrepreneurs, the strength and quality of friendship in British society shows little sign of diminishing. This will contribute substantially to our national well being and ultimately raise levels of mortality above those equally wealthy but less friend-rich societies. However, there are tendencies in our society that could undermine such friendship, including a more ruthless commitment to market principles and the development of a more low-trust society through multifarious controls, watchdogs and government councils, offices and agencies concerned with policing our behaviour and professional performances.
The growth of such rules and rigid performance indicators suggest a growing lack of trust with a concomitant growth in anxiety-induced stress and a decline in well-being. Academics could well ask themselves whether they feel there has been a growth or decline of social support in universities since 1989.

Berkman, Lisa F., Social Support, Social Networks, Social Cohesion and Health, Social Work in Health Care 31(2) 2000 pp. 3-14.
House, J. S. et al., Social Relationships and Health, Science 241 July 1988 pp 540-545
Lane, R. E. The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies, Yale University Press, 2000
OECD, The Well-Being of Nations: The Role of Human and Social Capital, Paris, 2001
Pahl, R. E., On Friendship, Polity Press, Cambridge and Oxford, 2000.

Employment, Work and Well-being

Peter Warr
Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield

This paper examines factors influencing the psychological well-being of people in work settings. A distinction is drawn between context-free (or general) well-being and context-specific (e.g., job-related) well-being. Causal processes are partly different in the two cases; for example, context-free well-being is particularly affected by family and health processes. The two forms of well-being are empirically linked (e.g., Tait, Padgett and Baldwin, 1989) and mutually influential (e.g., Judge and Watanabe, 1993).
Differences between work-related roles
Some research has compared well-being in different roles: in employment of specific kinds, and in unemployment, non-employment and retirement. For example, well-being is much reduced during unemployment, although levels are higher when an unemployed person is less committed to finding a job. Differences in well-being between part- and full-time employees appear to be small, but there are methodological difficulties in this comparison (in matching job content and demographic characteristics). Employees on temporary contracts appear not to have lower job-specific well-being than more permanent workers (Parker, Griffin, Sprigg and Wall, 2001), but research evidence is so far limited.
Employment-related (and other) roles have different meanings according to whether or not they are chosen by the person in question. For example, some workers on temporary or part-time contracts have chosen that role, whereas others have it forced upon them. This renders ambiguous some comparisons made between roles. The proportion of role occupants who have chosen their role can vary between studies or roles, with an accompanying difference in average well-being.
For instance, older individuals who have retired early tend to have raised well-being. However, in addition to that overall effect, there is a marked difference between people choosing to retire early and those who are forced to retire early because of ill-health. Similarly among employed people in that age-range, those who have a strong financial need for employment exhibit significantly lower well-being than those who are less pressed into employment for financial reasons. Findings from comparisons between average well-being in employment or in early retirement are thus in part determined by the proportion of each sub-sample who have either chosen or been pushed into their role.
Environmental quality
Well-being is in these ways a function both of role occupancy and of freedom of choice about which role to occupy. In addition, a person’s well-being is determined by the quality of his or her environment in a particular role. Environmental quality (e.g., as a paid worker or as a retired person) may be measured in terms of features grouped under the following headings: opportunity for personal control, opportunity for skill use, job demands, variety, environmental clarity, income level, physical security, supportive supervision, opportunity for interpersonal contact, and valued social position. Any environment may be profiled through its value on these dimensions, and comparisons between the quality of specific settings (e.g., in a job or during unemployment) can be made in those terms.
The ten features have consistently been found to be significantly associated with well-being (e.g., Warr, 1987, 1999). Some of those associations are likely to be non-linear, similar to the relationship between amount of a vitamin consumed and its beneficial effects. For example, a given increase in income is likely to have less impact at high levels than at low levels; or an inverted-U relationship may occur, since (e.g.) job demands can impair well-being at both low and high levels.
Irrespective of a person’s employment status (employed, unemployed, retired, etc.), context-free well-being has been found to be associated with the level of those features (e.g., opportunity for control, demands, environmental clarity). Well-being thus varies around an average for each role, depending on the quality of a person’s environment measured in these terms, over and above the specific role that is occupied.
Differences between individuals
In addition to being a function of role occupancy, freedom of choice and environmental quality, well-being is also linked to individual characteristics. One important overlap is with personality dispositions of hardiness, neuroticism, extraversion, etc. Some people report relatively lower or higher well-being cross-situationally, irrespective of their current circumstances. Second, older workers tend to have more positive well-being than younger ones, partly because of differences in job content and also due to different standards of comparison at different ages (Warr, 1997). Third, findings about the job-related well-being of men and women are inconsistent, although a gender difference is unlikely after job content and other features have been controlled (Barnett and Hyde, 2001).
Enhancing well-being
Procedures aimed to increase well-being in employment seek either to change the environment (e.g., through the redesign of jobs) or to assist a person to cope with that environment (e.g., through stress-management training). Research evidence about effectiveness is limited but encouraging (e.g., Carroll and Walton, 1997). However, implementation has been restricted, because many employers are concerned that procedures to improve well-being may also impair job performance; would changes to raise well-being also lead to lower quantity or quality of work? In seeking to enhance employee well-being, it is thus desirable also to examine factors influencing work performance, seeking benefits in both terms. The practical issue is one of “well-being and performance”, not merely of “well-being”.

Barnett, R. C. and Hyde, J. S. (2001). Women, men, work, and family: An expansionist theory. American Psychologist, 56, 781-796.
Carroll, M. and Walton, M. (eds.) (1997). Handbook of Counselling in Organizations. London: Sage.
Judge, T. A. and Watanabe, S. (1993). Another look at the job-satisfaction-life satisfaction relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 929-948.
Parker, S. K., Griffin, M. A., Sprigg, C. A. and Wall, T. D. (2001). Effect of temporary contracts on employee strain and commitment: The mediating role of work characteristics. Personnel Psychology, in press.
Tait, M., Padgett, M. Y. and Baldwin, T. T. (1989). Job and life satisfaction: A re-evaluation of the strength of gender effects as a function of the date of the study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 502-507.
Warr, P. B. (1987). Work, Unemployment and Mental Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Warr, P. B. (1997). Age, work, and mental health. In K. W. Schaie and C. Schooler (eds.), The Impact of Work on Older Individuals, pp. 252-296. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Warr, P. B. (1999). Well-being and the workplace. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, pp. 392-412. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.


Conditions for Wellbeing in Working Life: Evidence from the Working in Britain 2000 Survey

Michael White,
Policy Studies Institute, London

Many discussions of the nature of employment have emphasised its qualitative dimensions and especially those which represent the intrinsic and self-expressive aspects of the experience of work. It has been argued that the material conditions of work are at a relatively low level of individuals' needs, while autonomy, the exercise of skill and responsibility, participation in decision-making, and opportunities for learning and self-development, govern the deeper experience of work. But these views about the nature of wellbeing in working life came to the fore in the 1960s, a period when the material conditions of work were progressing very rapidly in Western industrialised countries, and when job security was at a particularly high level. Do they continue to apply in the recent period when, according to some authors (e.g., Harrison and Bluestone, 1988; Breen, 1997), the more basic conditions of employment have for many workers been subject to progressive deterioration?
Nationally representative surveys of employees conducted in 1992 and 2000, provide an opportunity to reassess these issues. These sources reveal a striking discordance between developments in the intrinsic dimensions of working life, and individuals' views of their work situation.
During the period 1992-2000, the qualitative aspects of working life on which theorists have laid great stress improved markedly. For example, workers felt able to use their skills and experience more fully in their work, and in a variety of ways they became more involved in decision making and in processes of change relating to their work. Thus the dimension of participation in work developed in a positive way that should have increased employees' sense of self-realisation and involvement. A similar tendency was found in relation to learning and development, with consistent though small or moderate increases in continued learning, personal development planning, access to promotions, and the sense of having a career. The indications are that employees were being offered increasing opportunities to develop themselves in their working lives.
Over the same period, however, a number of the customary indicators of wellbeing at work declined. In the case of the 'overall satisfaction' measure (one of the most widely used indicators of wellbeing), the decline was small, though there was a larger fall in the proportion declaring themselves 'completely satisfied' on this measure. In the case of 'facet satisfaction' measures, the falls were larger, and for some facets of employment – including hours of work, work load, training, and pay – they were precipitous. A 'total satisfaction' measure, summating these facet scores, indicated a very marked overall decline in satisfaction. On the 'organisational commitment' scale, which seeks to measure the degree of congruence between an employee's values and that of the organisation she works for, there was once more a marked decline.
The results therefore appear to indicate that employers have progressed towards offering more of those 'intrinsic' and nurturant aspects of the work situation which have widely been regarded as most important for employees' deeper sense of wellbeing in working life. Yet – at least as viewed through the customary measures – employees now appear to be less committed and more critical towards their employment, rather than more involved with and committed to it.
The paper examines a number of potential explanations, or hypotheses, concerning the apparently discordant tendencies found in the over-time comparisons.
(a) Has an 'instrumental' orientation (Goldthorpe et al., 1968), in which employees see work primarily as a means to high material living standards, become more dominant in recent years, thereby nullifying employers' attempts to create greater involvement through the intrinsic aspects of work?
(b) Does the apparent contradiction arise because of other employer policies being implemented in parallel, which may 'cancel' any of the gains made in terms of self-actualization and self-development? Specifically, has employees' sense of wellbeing in work been adversely affected (i) by increasing application of formalised control systems (Gallie et al., 1998)? (ii) by rising work pressures and conflicts between work and non-working life (White et al., 2001)?
(c) Has employees' wellbeing been eroded by low levels of job security, or more generally by the transfer of risk from employers to employees (Beck, 1992; Breen, 1997)?
By examining the changes over the 1990-2000 period, the analysis will seek to provide a clearer understanding of the conditions for wellbeing in work. Implications for policy will be considered.Note: The survey "Working in Britain in the Year 2000" was carried out as part of a project funded under the Economic and Social Research Council's Future of Work research programme, with a joint team from the London School of Economics and the Policy Studies Institute.


Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, Sage.
Breen, R. (1997) Risk, recommodification and stratification. Sociology, 31(3), 473-489.
Gallie, D., White, M., Cheng, Y. and Tomlinson, M. (1998) Restructuring the Employment Relationship, Oxford University Press.
Goldthorpe, J., Lockwood, D., Bechhofer, F. and Platt, J. (1968) The Affluent Worker, Cambridge University Press.
Harrison, B. and Bluestone, B. (1988) The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America, Basic Books.
White, M., Mills, C. and Smeaton, D. (2001) At the end of their tether? Changing work demands and the work-family balance in Britain. Paper presented at the Work Employment and Society Conference, Nottingham, 2001.




Professor Ken Roberts,
University of Liverpool

Has this seminar made a case for a research programme into well-being?  We need to decide, first, whether ‘well-being’ is a sufficiently firm topic to stand close scrutiny; second, whether there are knowledge gaps to fill; and third, whether such in-filling will be useful.

The topic

A couple of decades back the preferred term was ‘quality of life’. We still hear about ‘quality time’.  Well-being is now the generally preferred term but both concepts draw attention to variations within the positive.  The human sciences have strengths in the measurement of negatives: illness, disability, poverty, crime, alienation and anomie.  Economists (and lay people) can measure variations in living standards above the poverty line, but what about the psychological and social dimensions?  We can measure social capital, but is this a good in itself or only in so far as it leads to other desirable consequences such as less crime, higher educational attainments, more civic participation and greater wealth?  We have decades of experience of asking people to rate their own ‘satisfaction’ or ‘happiness’ with their lives in general, and specific aspects, but is this what we mean by well-being?  What do self-assessed satisfied and happy people mean?  Could expressed contentment be a product of low expectations?

The contributions to this seminar demonstrate that well-being can have different meanings.  One is the absence of stress or pressure.  Social support from emotionally close associates can act as a buffer which enables people to feel relaxed and at ease. Such a state of well-being is very different from the so-called ‘optimal’ or ‘peak’ experience that is achieved when people face challenges which stretch their skills to the utmost, leading to total absorption, and a ‘high’ when the challenge is met.  ‘Fun’ can be gained from casual, humorous social interaction, the opposite of the ‘serious leisure’ which is said to yield special benefits.

The initial research task must surely be to seek conceptual clarity.  Are there different ways of achieving a singular desirable state of well-being?  Or can well-being have entirely different meanings, and, if so, do these vary systematically between cultures, countries, social classes, ethnic groups, and men and women?  Also, we need to decide, or to investigate, whether levels of well-being are best treated, and explained, as properties of individuals, or as social facts which are properties of populations.  The same choice arises when investigating social capital.

All the above assumes that it is lay people, individually or in groups, who are the proper ultimate judges of their own well-being.  An older view is that certain tastes and ways of life are objectively superior.  High (as opposed to low) culture used to be so-regarded and this view retains some support, certainly in Russia why many public intellectuals regard high culture as being self-evidently superior for the same reasons that higher education is placed ‘above’ elementary schooling – individuals progress from lower to higher, and only those who have made all the steps are believed to be competent judges of the value of progression.  Maybe this view needs to be investigated rather than omitted from the agenda.

The state of knowledge

Some furrows in the well-being field are already thoroughly ploughed. We already know a great deal about how particular kinds of well-being are achieved.  We know how ‘flow’ is produced.  We know which activities are most likely to support ‘serious leisure’.  We can explain humour.  We know that most people place a high value on their close, personal relationships (with their families and friends).  We know which features of jobs are associated with job satisfaction.  We know that satisfiers and dissatisfiers are sometimes entirely different factors: for example, pay rises are far more effective in reducing job dissatisfaction than in yielding sustained rises in job satisfaction.

There are some paradoxes which themselves suggest explanations.  Over time, aggregate levels of expressed well-being do not always change in the ways that cross-sectional evidence might lead one to expect.  Overall, jobs have become better-paid and more skilled without, it appears, increasingly all-round feelings of well-being in workplaces.  This suggests that expectations and comparisons make a crucial difference.  But if so, why have Americans become less happy?  If family relationships are less secure, and if neighborhoods are less closely knit, why have not expectations changed accordingly and happiness levels been maintained? 

Changes over time, and inter-societal differences, are among the major knowledge gaps.  Are some societies happier places than others?  Attempts to find answers are likely to be frustrated by standardised measurements having different meanings in different times and places.

How useful?

Who are the most likely users of well-being knowledge?  Will individuals voluntarily change their ways of life in so far as they are able to do so?  Will employers  change their human resource practices and state departments their policies?  If this was likely, market and electoral pressures respectively should already be achieving the desired results. 

People, whether individually or collectively, do not need ‘scientific’ evidence before demanding their particular interests be respected.  Women will not be diissuaded from demanding a work-life balance that is fair to them by evidence that, overall, they are already no less happy than men.  The economically advantaged (and powerful) will not be converted to egalitarianism by evidence that this would raise the population’s aggregate level of life satisfaction.  Welfare economics has a long-standing mountain of evidence to prove this.

Maybe all this will change.  The use value of a science of well-being may depend on whether we really are at the threshold of the long-awaited post-scarcity, post-materialist age in which individuals will become pre-occupied with higher-level, self-actualisation needs, when everyone’s desires can be satiated and zero-sum conflicts between interests groups therefore become a thing of the past.  If we are not about to cross this threshold, well-being research could be an interesting and theoretically productive, but still just an academic, exercise.

© Manchester Metropolitan University 2013 | Site designed by D&AW