What is general welfare


Well-being is a very complex construct that is not easy to define and measure. Current research on wellbeing has been derived from two perspectives: the hedonistic perspective, which defines wellbeing in terms of happiness, positive affect, low negative affect and life satisfaction, and the eudaimonic perspective, which emphasizes positive psychological functioning, optimal experience and development. As a rule, it is assumed that well-being is multidimensional and not to be equated with happiness or the absence of suffering and disturbances. Well-being can be divided into subjective, psychological and social well-being and described using various elements (e.g. PERMA).

Subjective wellbeing

The subjective well-being is based on the concept of hedonism. This view describes that people generally strive to maximize contentment, joy and happiness in life and avoid pain and suffering.
Subjective well-being is defined as the subjective, affective and cognitive evaluation of one's own life. It consists of three components: life satisfaction (cognitive evaluation), the presence of positive emotions / moods and the absence of negative emotions / moods (affective evaluations; Diener, 1984). Positive and negative moods are viewed as separate dimensions and not as the two end poles of one dimension; So there are two emotional components that have an independent effect on wellbeing. Diener later added the component “life area satisfaction” to subjective well-being (Diener, 1999). These include, for example, working conditions, family relationships and living conditions, but also other important areas of life such as friends, leisure time, health, the environment, material possessions and much more. Here a person can be satisfied with one area of ​​life, while he is dissatisfied with another area of ​​life.

Psychological wellbeing

Psychological wellbeing focuses on personal growth and self-realization and is defined as the extent to which a person is fully functional. It includes among other things the exhaustion of your own potential and the fulfillment of your own "true nature". A high level of psychological well-being is given when one can act autonomously in one's life, master environmental demands, experience personal growth, maintain positive relationships with other people, recognize meaning in life and accept oneself (Ryff & Keyes, 1995).

In the hedonistic view, the experience of pleasure or the fulfillment of subjectively perceived needs are the most important criteria for well-being. In contrast, the eudaimonic view focuses on needs that are rooted in human nature and lead to growth and eudaimonia (term for comprehensive well-being according to Aristotle). Well-being, then, is based on the expression of virtues - that is, doing what is valuable and living in harmony with the true self.

Wellbeing Theories

Mental Health

Keyes (2002) Theory of Mental Health (as opposed to Mental Illness) encompasses both hedonistic and eudaimonic aspects and extends subjective and psychological well-being to include the social aspect. Social wellbeing has five dimensions: social acceptance, social realization, social contribution, social coherence and social inclusion. According to Keyes, individuals function well when they understand society and experience it as meaningful, see in it the opportunity to grow personally, feel part of society and feel accepted, accept it for the most part and have the feeling that they are contributing to society themselves. Mental health can be operationalized as a syndrome that combines symptoms of emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The mental health continuum consists of perfect and imperfect mental health (Keyes, 2002). People who are completely mentally healthy flourish and show a high level of well-being. You experience positive emotions and function well mentally and socially. People who are incompletely mentally healthy, on the other hand, become fatigued ("languish") and show poor well-being. In addition, they feel lifeless, are desperate and describe themselves and life as "empty" and "meaningless". The risk of developing depression is two times higher in people who are fatigued ("languish") than in moderately mentally healthy people and up to six times more likely in people who are fatigued ("languish") than in people that flourish ("flourish"). Nevertheless, well-being (or mental health) should be viewed as independent of illness, even though well-being is often associated with the absence of illness. However, it is also possible to experience a high level of well-being and mental illness at the same time or, conversely, to neither be mentally ill nor have high values ​​in terms of well-being.

Self-Determination Theory

The self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) postulates three basic psychological needs - autonomy, competence and social inclusion - the satisfaction of which lead to psychological growth, integrity and well-being as well as vitality and self-congruence. It describes conditions that promote or weaken well-being. Self-determination theory shares many views with the eudaimonic approach, but it also differs from it. Both have in common that well-being is viewed as functioning completely and that both agree with the content of eudaimonia (being autonomous, competent and involved). A significant difference, however, is that self-determination theory sees these contents as promoting factors for well-being, whereas in the eudaimonic approach, well-being is defined through these contents. In summary, the self-determination theory advocates that people develop their own talents and abilities and use them for something greater, especially for the well-being of other people.

Well-Being Theory (PERMA)

In 2011, Seligman published his book “Flourish”, in which he introduced his new dynamic concept of wellbeing and developed the theory that conceptualizes wellbeing exclusively as “happiness”. In his view, well-being is multidimensional and should consist of hedonistic and eudaimonic aspects. In his theory of wellbeing, he describes five elements that should lead to a flourishing life: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and achievements. The first letters of the English names of these five components form the acronym PERMA (pleasure / positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment). According to Seligman, the five components of the Well-Being Theory represent those five aspects that people pursue for their own sake and which cannot be reduced to other aspects - hence these are the basic dimensions of well-being.

Positive emotions / pleasure

This component describes a hedonistic orientation that focuses on experiencing positive emotions. Positive emotions can relate to the past (e.g., gratitude), the future (e.g., confidence), and the present (e.g., pleasure or reward) (Seligman, 2005).


Engagement is about engaging in highly engaging and engaging activities and the resulting experience of flow. Like the positive feeling, commitment is also assessed subjectively. In contrast to the positive feeling that relates to the present, positive thoughts and feelings are only perceived in retrospect during engagement.


This component describes the striving for meaningfulness. An important part of this is that you have the feeling that your own actions serve a higher purpose or a bigger cause. For example, the use of one's own strengths for other people or the active participation in a cause that is bigger than oneself can make sense. Sense reflects the eudaimonic perspective. Sense can be assessed subjectively as well as objectively and, due to the subjective component, could also be subordinated to positive feeling.

Positive relationships

Social togetherness and relationships are among the most important aspects of life and people actively seek emotional and physical interactions with other people. Strong relationships can hold up and be a source of joy in difficult times.

Achievements (Accomplishment)

Achievement involves pursuing explicit goals in life, moving forward in life, and feeling like you can do daily activities. Success, performance and competence are sought for their own sake and also contribute to well-being

The Well-Being Theory by Seligman (2011) is an extension of the Authentic Happiness Theory by Seligman (2002): This originally envisaged three "orientations to happiness", ie three different paths to well-being: the pursuit of pleasure and positive emotions , pursuing engagement and pursuing purpose. In the 2011 revision, Seligman added the components accomplishment and positive relationships as described above. Another decisive change to the theory of authentic happiness is that happiness and life satisfaction are assigned to “positive emotions” and are no longer seen as the goal of the entire theory.


Orientations to Happiness Questionnaire, OTH (Peterson, Park & ​​Seligman, 2005; German version by Ruch, Harzer, Proyer, Park & ​​Peterson, 2010a)

The OTH measures the three paths to well-being according to Seligmans (2002) Authentic Happiness Theory: pursuing pleasure, commitment or meaning.

Positive Relationships- and the Accomplishment-scale (Gander, Proyer & Ruch, 2016)

This scale records the tracking of the components “positive relationships” and “target achievement” of the PERMA model and can be used to supplement the OTH.

Authentic Happiness Inventory, AHI (Seligman, Steen, Park & ​​Peterson, 2005)
The AHI measures general satisfaction, subjective and psychological well-being.

The Ryff Scale (1989)

With the help of the Ryff scale, psychological well-being can be measured in the six dimensions postulated by Ryff.

The Mental Health Continuum- Short Form, MHC-SF (Lamers, Westerhof, Bohlmeijer, Klooster & Keyes, 2011)

The MHC-SF measures emotional, social and psychological well-being.

Satisfaction with life scale, SWLS (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985)

The SWLS is a self-assessment scale that measures global life satisfaction using five questions. The SWLS has very good psychometric properties and is widely used in research.

Subjective / General Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999)

This scale measures subjective happiness.

Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, PANAS (Watson, Clark & ​​Tellegen, 1988)

The PANAS is a questionnaire that measures the experience of positive and negative affective states in the moment or in general. It consists of 20 adjectives that comprise ten positive feelings (e.g. happy, interested) and ten negative feelings (e.g. worried, irritated).

Scale of Positive and Negative Experience, SPANE (Diener, Wirtz, Tov, Kim-Prieto, Choi, Oishi & Biswas-Diener, 2009; German version by Rahm, Heise & Schuldt, 2017)

This scale is a 12-item questionnaire consisting of six questions about positive feelings and six questions about negative feelings. For both positive and negative feelings, three questions of a general nature (e.g. positive, negative) and three questions of a specific nature (e.g. happy, sad) are included.

Selected findings

Effects of subjective well-being

Feeling happier is not just a comfortable state and the result of favorable living conditions, it has other important implications in life. People who are satisfied with their life and experience positive emotions differ in their behaviors from unhappy people (Diener & Chan, 2011; Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005): For example, happy people are more likely to get married and stay married than less fortunate people. People who are in a good mood are more likely to act selflessly, and happy people are more likely to donate more money to charities. They like other people more and are liked more by others. Studies also show that happy people have higher incomes and are more likely not to be unemployed. High subjective well-being leads to better health, higher life expectancy, better social relationships and more productivity at work (Edmans, 2012; Harter, Schmidt, Asplund, Killham, & Agrawal, 2010). People in the US who have higher life satisfaction have a higher life expectancy and a lower risk of dying from heart disease, cancer or diabetes (Lawless & Lucas, 2011).

Well-being and Depressive Symptoms

The effectiveness of positive interventions was examined in a meta-analysis (Bolier et al., 2013); these are psychological treatment methods (training, exercise, therapy) that are theoretically based in positive psychology and aim to cultivate positive feelings, positive cognitions and positive behaviors. A total of 39 studies with 6139 participants could be identified. The main result showed that positive interventions can effectively increase subjective and psychological well-being and reduce depressive symptoms. This indicates that people can also actively influence their well-being.


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Literature tip

Seligman, M. (2012). Flourish: How people flourish. Munich, Germany: Kösel.