The multidimensionality of well-being: Theory, measurement and empirical investigations
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Background: Well-being within this thesis is defined as the multidimensional quality of a person’s life, which can be broken down into ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ forms. Despite persistent study, researchers fail to agree on the meaning of well-being or how it should be studied. Aim: The first half of the thesis aims to examine the meaning, measurement and theory of well-being. The second half of the thesis aims to investigate the factors associated with subjective well-being (SWB), and the influence of attributes of well-being on preferences for the future. Methods: A systematic review was conducted to identify measures of well-being for use in adults (general population). The dimensions within these measures were organised into a framework using thematic analysis. Further, the theories underpinning these measures were identified and described. Fixed-effect regression models were used to study the factors important for SWB using data from a longitudinal (1996 – 2013) cohort of middle aged-older adults in the United States (n = 2049). Finally, preferences for life in the future were estimated in a sample of young ‘emergent adults’ (n =140) in the United Kingdom, using discrete choice experiments (DCEs). Results: The systematic review identified 99 measures of well-being, which included 196 distinct dimensions. These measures were influenced by a diverse range of theories (n = 98). Mental health, social integration and satisfaction with work had a significant impact on each of the SWB outcome variables (life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect) in the fixed-effects analysis. The DCE indicated that stated preferences for life in the future among emergent adults were particularly driven by the prospect of social support from family and an aversion to experiencing mental health difficulties. Conclusion: This thesis has investigated inconsistencies in how well-being is understood, measured and studied. In response to this, a framework has been developed which organises the many measures available around key themes. Following on from the fixed-effects analysis and the DCE, future empirical research should be undertaken to investigate the interdependence of well-being and mental health.
University of Exeter Medical School
PhD Medical Studies