Wellbeing ESRC Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Manchester Metropolitan University
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Wellbeing: Social and Individual Determinants.

Seminar series funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.


Research into subjective wellbeing emphasises the need to understand the complex interplay between social, personal and environmental factors; and the need to develop new theories and methods of research. The seminar series on the determinants of well being aimed to generate research interest in the processes and circumstances that facilitate wellbeing (including positive mental and physical health) in individuals, groups, communities and societies. This subject, though receiving a great deal of contemporary interest, is by its nature transdisciplinary. The objective is not to replace, but provide an alternative to, and to complement, the overwhelming harm-based focus of much social scientific research into health. Wellbeing offers a paradigm that allows those in the academic, policy and user fields to focus on positive outcomes, and how best to realise them.


The co-ordinators, and contributing institutions, were:

Dr John Haworth, Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University
e-mail haworthjt@yahoo.com

Professor Graham Hart, now Director of the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, London ghart@gum.ulc.ac.uk

Professor Sarah Curtis, Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London
e-mail S.E.Curtis@qmw.ac.uk


The seminars were as follows:

Wellbeing: The Interaction Between Person and Environment
Work, Employment, Leisure and Wellbeing
Health and Wellbeing
Policy for Wellbeing

The series, and related publications, show the importance of considering societal, environmental and individual factors in considering wellbeing. Social position is seen to significantly influence access to resources, wellbeing and health in the UK. There are also cultural and social group differences in perceptions of wellbeing, and factors influencing wellbeing. Increase in socio-economic inequalities in developed countries is associated with growth in health inequality which is likely be detrimental to wellbeing of individuals and communities. There are global level prerequisites for societal and individual wellbeing, including a reduction of poverty and inequality across the world. Wellness is achieved by the simultaneous and balanced satisfaction of personal, interpersonal and collective needs and by a therapeutic relationship with natural, built and social environments.

In developed countries, problems exist with work-life integration and the balance between paid work and the rest of life. This is exacerbated by gender and social class; and influenced by global, national, and local factors. Social institutions and environmental factors facilitate and constrain wellbeing, in interaction with characteristics of persons. Enjoyment plays a pivotal role in this interaction.

Social science research is crucial in order to inform understanding and policy in the area of wellbeing, and the seminars have started to do this.


Key references.

www.wellbeing-esrc.com Papers relating to all four seminars are on the website. There are also key links to other sites concerned with wellbeing, and positive psychology.

Kearns, R., and Gesler, W. (1998) (eds) Putting Health into Place: Landscape, Identity and Well-being. Syracuse University Press, Sycracuse

Wilkinson, R.G. (1996) Unhealthy Societies: the afflictions of inequality. London, Routledge.

Wilkinson, R.G. (2000) Mind the Gap: Hierarchies, Health and Human Evolution. London, Weidenfield & Nicholson.

Williams, A. (ed) (1999) Therapeutic Landscapes: The Dynamic between Place and wellness. University Press of America. New York.

Taylor, R. (2002) The Future of Work-Life Balance. ESRC Future of Work Programme. Available from the ESRC Tel 01793 413001

Taylor, R. (2002) Britain’s World of Work-Myths and Realities. ESRC Future of Work Programme. Available from the ESRC Tel 01793 413001

Haworth, T. J. and Veal, A. J. (2004) Work and Leisure. London: Routledge.

Layard, R (2005) Happinesss. London: Allen Lane. Above a certain level, economic growth (GDP) does not increase overall societal wellbeing. Layard argues that a good society is one where people are happiest. Aso see: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/layard for a series of lectures by Layard on Happiness.

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