The Quality of Well-Being Scale (QWB) is a general health quality of life questionnaire which measures overall status and well-being over the previous three days in four areas:
It consists of 71 items and takes 20 minutes to complete. There are two different versions of the QWB; the original was designed to be administered by an interviewer, and the second development (the QWB-SA) was designed to be self-administered.
The four domain scores of the questionnaire are combined into a total score that ranges from 0 to 1.0, with 1.0 representing optimum function and 0 representing death.
The QWB was originally known as the Health Status Index, then the Index of Well-Being, and then eventually became the Quality of Well-Being Scale. It has undergone several modifications since its development.
The process of administering the QWB can be described in three stages. They are the assessment of:
Scaling the responses; and
Assessment of functional status involves a structured interview which records the symptoms and problems experienced over the last eight days. It is used to classify the patient’s level of functioning. The interview takes about seven minutes or longer, according to the patient’s level of health. Questions in the interview covered three criteria of functioning: physical activity, social activity and mobility and confinement. The interview also records the presence of symptoms or problem complexes, which are problems that were experienced on the previous day, but were not being experienced at the present time.
The responses from the interview were then scaled. Preference weights were given for each function level by 867 raters. The preference weights indicated the social judgement of the importance of each function level. A score is generated, which is known as W.W. can then be adjusted to reflect the prognosis of a given medical condition.
Since the development of the Quality of Well-Being Scale and the consequent Quality of Well-Being Scale-Self Administered, the questionnaire has been utilised in numerous studies worldwide. Due to the general nature of the questionnaire, it has proven useful in a variety of different formats and contexts.
One way in which the QWB and the QWB-SA has been utilised is that it has been a comparator used to validate other measures, or a starting point for creating subscales of the questionnaire. An example of this is a subscale developed for use with the QWB-SA that assesses mental health, a comparator study seeking to investigate the Health and Activity Limitation Index and a study seeking to validate a new questionnaire called the Assessment of Quality of Life (AQoL)-8D.
The QWB and the QWB-SA have also been validated or assessed for suitability in various cultures and countries. The QWB has been assessed for use in Trinidad and Tobago and the QWB-SA has been validated for German patients with prostate disease, as well as Chinese patients with epilepsy.
It was developed for the Overseas Development Council in the mid-1970s by Pratyush and his company, as one of a number of measures created due to dissatisfaction with the use of GNP as an indicator of development. He thought that they would cover a wide range of indicators like health, sanitation, drinking water, nutrition, education etc. PQLI might be regarded as an improvement but shares the general problems of measuring quality of life in a quantitative way. It has also been criticised because there is considerable overlap between infant mortality and life expectancy.
The UN Human Development Index is a more widely used means of measuring well-being.
Steps to Calculate Physical Quality of Life:
Find percentage of the population that is literate (literacy rate).
Find the infant mortality rate. (out of 1000 births) INDEXED Infant Mortality Rate = (166 – infant mortality) × 0.625
Find the Life Expectancy. INDEXED Life Expectancy = (Life expectancy – 42) × 2.7
Physical Quality of Life = (Literacy Rate + INDEXED Infant Mortality Rate + INDEXED Life Expectancy) divided by 3.
Notes about the PQLI:
Increase in national income and per capita income are not the real indicators of economic development, as it has a number of limitations.
Increasing incomes of the country are concentrated (generally) in the hands of a few people, which is not development.
The development of a country should be such that the living standards of the poor rise, and the basic requirements of the citizens are fulfilled.
Keeping this in mind, Morris Davis Morris presented the physical quality of life index, in short known as the PQLI.
In this index, betterment of physical quality of life of human beings is considered economic development.
The level of physical quality of life determines the level of economic development.
If any country’s physical quality of life is higher than that of the other country, then that country is considered as more developed.
There are three standards to measure the physical quality, which are depicted here:
Biohappiness, or bio-happiness, is the elevation of wellbeing in humans through biological methods, including germline engineering through screening embryos with genes associated with a high level of happiness, or the use of drugs intended to raise baseline levels of happiness.
The object is to facilitate the achievement of a state of “better than well.”
Proponents of biohappiness include the transhumanist philosopher David Pearce, whose goal is to end the suffering of all sentient beings and the Canadian ethicist Mark Alan Walker. Walker has sought to defend biohappiness on the grounds that happiness ought to be of interest to a wide range of moral theorists; and that hyperthymia, a state of high baseline happiness, is associated with better outcomes in health and human achievement.
The concept of biohappiness also has its high-profile critics, including Leon Kass, who served on the President’s Council on Bioethics during the presidency of George W. Bush.
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biohappiness >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.
Subjective well-being (SWB) is a self-reported measure of well-being, typically obtained by questionnaire.
Ed Diener developed a tripartite model of subjective well-being in 1984, which describes how people experience the quality of their lives and includes both emotional reactions and cognitive judgments. It posits “three distinct but often related components of wellbeing: frequent positive affect, infrequent negative affect, and cognitive evaluations such as life satisfaction.” Subjective well-being is an overarching ideology that encompasses such things as “high levels of pleasant emotions and moods, low levels of negative emotions and moods, and high life-satisfaction.”
SWB therefore encompasses moods and emotions as well as evaluations of one’s satisfaction with general and specific areas of one’s life. SWB is one definition of happiness.
Although SWB tends to be stable over the time and is strongly related to personality traits, the emotional component of SWB can be impacted by situations; for example, the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, lowered emotional well-being by 74%. There is evidence that health and SWB may mutually influence each other, as good health tends to be associated with greater happiness, and a number of studies have found that positive emotions and optimism can have a beneficial influence on health.
Construction of SWB
Diener argued that the various components of SWB represent distinct constructs that need to be understood separately, even though they are closely related. Hence, SWB may be considered “a general area of scientific interest rather than a single specific construct”. Due to the specific focus on the subjective aspects of well-being, definitions of SWB typically exclude objective conditions such as material conditions or health, although these can influence ratings of SWB. Definitions of SWB therefore focus on how a person evaluates his/her own life, including emotional experiences of pleasure versus pain in response to specific events and cognitive evaluations of what a person considers a good life. Components of SWB relating to affect include positive affect (experiencing pleasant emotions and moods) and low negative affect (experiencing unpleasant, distressing emotions and moods), as well as “overall affect” or “hedonic balance”, defined as the overall equilibrium between positive and negative affect, and usually measured as the difference between the two. High positive affect and low negative affect are often highly correlated, but not always.
Affect refers to the emotions, moods, and feelings a person has. These can be all positive, all negative, or a combination of both positive and negative. Some research shows also that feelings of reward are separate from positive and negative affect.
Life satisfaction (global judgments of one’s life) and satisfaction with specific life domains (e.g. work satisfaction) are considered cognitive components of SWB. The term “happiness” is sometimes used in regards to SWB and has been defined variously as “satisfaction of desires and goals” (therefore related to life satisfaction), as a “preponderance of positive over negative affect” (therefore related to emotional components of SWB), as “contentment”, and as a “consistent, optimistic mood state” and may imply an affective evaluation of one’s life as a whole. Life satisfaction can also be known as the “stable” component in one’s life. Affective concepts of SWB can be considered in terms of momentary emotional states as well as in terms of longer-term moods and tendencies (i.e. how much positive and/or negative affect a person generally experiences over any given period of time).Life satisfaction and in some research happiness are typically considered over long durations, up to one’s lifetime. “Quality of life” has also been studied as a conceptualisation of SWB. Although its exact definition varies, it is usually measured as an aggregation of well-being across several life domains and may include both subjective and objective components.
Eudaimonic measures seek to quantify traits like virtue and wisdom as well as concepts related to fulfilling our potential such as meaning, purpose, and flourishing. Eudaimonic measures are often regarded as a core component of SWB, particularly in the field of positive psychology. However, it is unclear whether measures of meaning are really measures of wellbeing and little data has been collected on them.
Life satisfaction and Affect balance are generally measured separately and independently.
Life satisfaction is generally measured using a self-report method. A common measurement for life satisfaction is questionnaires.
Affective balance is also generally measured using a self-report method. An example of a measurement of affective balance is the PANAS (Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule).
Sometimes a single SWB question attempts to capture an overall picture. For example, the World Happiness Report uses a Cantril ladder survey, in which respondents are asked to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0, and are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale.
The issue with the such measurements of life satisfaction and affective balance is that they are self-reports. The problem with self-reports is that the participants may be lying or at least not telling the whole truth on the questionnaires. Participants may be lying or holding back from revealing certain things because they are either embarrassed or they may be filling in what they believe the researcher wants to see in the results. To gain more accurate results, other methods of measurement have been used to determine one’s SWB.
Another way to corroborate or confirm that the self-report results are accurate is through informant reports. Informant reports are given to the participant’s closest friends and family and they are asked to fill out either a survey or a form asking about the participants mood, emotions, and overall lifestyle. The participant may write in the self-report that they are very happy, however that participant’s friends and family record that he/she is always depressed. This would obviously be a contradiction in results which would ultimately lead to inaccurate results.
Another method of gaining a better understanding of the true results is through ESM, or the Experience Sampling Method. In this measure, participants are given a beeper/pager that will randomly ring throughout the day. Whenever the beeper/pager sounds, the participant will stop what he/she is doing and record the activity they are currently engaged in and their current mood and feelings. Tracking this over a period of a week or a month will give researchers a better understanding of the true emotions, moods, and feelings the participant is experiencing, and how these factors interact with other thoughts and behaviours. A third measurement to ensure validity is the Day Reconstruction Method. In this measure, participants fill out a diary of the previous days’ activities. The participant is then asked to describe each activity and provide a report of how they were feeling, what mood they were experiencing, and any emotions that surfaced. Thus to ensure valid results, a researcher may tend to use self-reports along with another form of measurement mentioned above. Someone with a high level of life satisfaction and a positive affective balance is said to have a high level of SWB.
Theories of the causes of SWB tend to emphasize either top-down or bottom-up influences.
In the top-down view, global features of personality influence the way a person perceives events. Individuals may therefore have a global tendency to perceive life in a consistently positive or negative manner, depending on their stable personality traits. Top-down theories of SWB suggest that people have a genetic predisposition to be happy or unhappy and this predisposition determines their SWB “setpoint”. Set Point theory implies that a person’s baseline or equilibrium level of SWB is a consequence of hereditary characteristics and therefore, almost entirely predetermined at birth. Evidence for this genetic predisposition derives from behaviour-genetic studies that have found that positive and negative affectivity each have high heritability (40% and 55% respectively in one study). Numerous twin studies confirm the notion of set point theory, however, they do not rule out the possibility that is it possible for individuals to experience long term changes in SWB.
Diener et al. note that heritability studies are limited in that they describe long-term SWB in a sample of people in a modern western society but may not be applicable to more extreme environments that might influence SWB and do not provide absolute indicators of genetic effects. Additionally, heritability estimates are inconsistent across studies.
Further evidence for a genetically influenced predisposition to SWB comes from findings that personality has a large influence on long-term SWB. This has led to the dynamic equilibrium model of SWB. This model proposes that personality provides a baseline for emotional responses. External events may move people away from the baseline, sometimes dramatically, but these movements tend to be of limited duration, with most people returning to their baseline eventually.
From a bottom-up perspective, happiness is created from happy experiences. Bottom-up influences include external events, and broad situational and demographic factors, including health and marital status. Bottom-up approaches are based on the idea that there are universal basic human needs and that happiness results from their fulfilment. In support of this view, there is evidence that daily pleasurable events are associated with increased positive affect, and daily unpleasant events or hassles are associated with increased negative affect.
However, research suggests that external events account for a much smaller proportion of the variance in self-reports of SWB than top-down factors, such as personality. A theory proposed to explain the limited impact of external events on SWB is hedonic adaptation. Based originally on the concept of a “hedonic treadmill”, this theory proposes that positive or negative external events temporarily increase or decrease feelings of SWB, but as time passes people tend to become habituated to their circumstances and have a tendency to return to a personal SWB “setpoint” or baseline level.
The hedonic treadmill theory originally proposed that most people return to a neutral level of SWB (i.e. neither happy nor unhappy) as they habituate to events. However, subsequent research has shown that for most people, the baseline level of SWB is at least mildly positive, as most people tend to report being at least somewhat happy in general and tend to experience positive mood when no adverse events are occurring. Additional refinements to this theory have shown that people do not adapt to all life events equally, as people tend to adapt rapidly to some events (e.g. imprisonment), slowly to others (e.g. the death of a loved one), and not at all to others (e.g. noise and sex).
Personality and Genetics
A number of studies have found that SWB constructs are strongly associated with a range of personality traits, including those in the five factor model. Findings from numerous personality studies show that genetics account for 20–48% of the variance in the Five-Factor Model and the variance in subjective well-being is also heritable. Specifically, neuroticism predicts poorer subjective well-being whilst extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience tend to predict higher subjective well-being. A Meta-analyses found that neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness were significantly related to all facets of SWB examined (positive, negative, and overall affect; happiness; life satisfaction; and quality of life). Meta-analytic research shows that neuroticism is the strongest predictor of overall SWB and is the strongest predictor of negative affect.
A large number of personality traits are related to SWB constructs, although intelligence has negligible relationships. Positive affect is most strongly predicted by extraversion, to a lesser extent agreeableness, and more weakly by openness to experience. Happiness was most strongly predicted by extraversion, and also strongly predicted by neuroticism, and to a lesser extent by the other three factors. Life satisfaction was significantly predicted by neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Quality of life was very strongly predicted by neuroticism, and also strongly predicted by extraversion and conscientiousness, and to a modest extent by agreeableness and openness to experience. One study found that subjective well-being was genetically indistinct from personality traits, especially those that reflected emotional stability (low Neuroticism), and social and physical activity (high Extraversion), and constraint (high Conscientiousness).
DeNeve (1999) argued that there are three trends in the relationship between personality and SWB. Firstly, SWB is closely tied to traits associated with emotional tendencies (emotional stability, positive affectivity, and tension). Secondly, relationship enhancing traits (e.g. trust, affiliation) are important for subjective well-being. Happy people tend to have strong relationships and be good at fostering them. Thirdly, the way people think about and explain events is important for subjective well-being. Appraising events in an optimistic fashion, having a sense of control, and making active coping efforts facilitates subjective well-being. Trust, a trait substantially related to SWB, as opposed to cynicism involves making positive rather than negative attributions about others. Making positive, optimistic attributions rather than negative pessimistic ones facilitates subjective well-being.
The related trait of eudaimonia or psychological well-being, is also heritable. Evidence from one study supports 5 independent genetic mechanisms underlying the Ryff facets of psychological well-being, leading to a genetic construct of eudaimonia in terms of general self-control, and four subsidiary biological mechanisms enabling the psychological capabilities of purpose, agency, growth, and positive social relations.
A person’s level of subjective well-being is determined by many different factors and social influences prove to be a strong one. Results from the famous Framingham Heart Study indicate that friends three degrees of separation away (that is, friends of friends of friends) can affect a person’s happiness. From abstract: “A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25%.”
Research has not demonstrated that there are significant differences in subjective well-being between childless couples and couples with children. A research study by Pollmann-Schult (2014) found that when holding finances and time costs constant, parents are happier and show increased life satisfaction than non-parents.
Research indicates that wealth is related to many positive outcomes in life. Such outcomes include: improved health and mental health, greater longevity, lower rates of infant mortality, experience fewer stressful life events, and less frequently the victims of violent crimes However, research suggests that wealth has a smaller impact on SWB than people generally think, even though higher incomes do correlate substantially with life satisfaction reports.
The relative influence of wealth together with other material components on overall subjective well-being of a person is being studied through new research. The Well-being Project at Human Science Lab investigates how material well-being and perceptual well-being works as relative determinants in conditioning our mind for positive emotions.
In a study done by Aknin, Norton, & Dunn (2009), researchers asked participants from across the income spectrum to report their own happiness and to predict the happiness of others and themselves at different income levels. In study 1, predicted happiness ranged between 2.4 and 7.9, and actual happiness ranged between 5.2 and 7.7. In study 2, predicted happiness ranged between 15-80 and actual happiness ranged between 50 and 80. These findings show that people believe that money does more for happiness than it really does. However, some research indicates that while socioeconomic measures of status do not correspond to greater happiness, measures of sociometric status (status compared to people encountered face-to-face on a daily basis) do correlate to increased subjective well-being, above and beyond the effects of extroversion and other factors.
The Easterlin Paradox also suggests that there is no connection between a society’s economic development and its average level of happiness. Through time, the Easterlin has looked at the relationship between happiness and gross domestic product (GDP) across countries and within countries. There are three different phenomena to look at when examining the connection between money and Subjective well-being; rising GDP within a country, relative income within a country, and differences in GDP between countries.
More specifically, when making comparisons between countries, a principle called the Diminishing Marginal Utility of Income (DMUI) stands strong. Veenhoven (1991) said, “[W]e not only see a clear positive relationship [between happiness and GNP per capita], but also a curvilinear pattern; which suggest that wealth is subject to a law of diminishing happiness returns.” Meaning a $1,000 increase in real income, becomes progressively smaller the higher the initial level of income, having less of an impact on subjective well-being. Easterlin (1995) proved that the DMUI is true when comparing countries, but not when looking at rising gross domestic product within countries.
There are substantial positive associations between health and SWB so that people who rate their general health as “good” or “excellent” tend to experience better SWB compared to those who rate their health as “fair” or “poor”. A meta-analysis found that self-ratings of general health were more strongly related to SWB than physician ratings of health. The relationship between health and SWB may be bidirectional. There is evidence that good subjective well-being contributes to better health. A review of longitudinal studies found that measures of baseline subjective well-being constructs such as optimism and positive affect predicted longer-term health status and mortality. Conversely, a number of studies found that baseline depression predicted poorer longer-term health status and mortality. Baseline health may well have a causal influence on subjective well-being so causality is difficult to establish. A number of studies found that positive emotions and optimism had a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health and on immune functioning. Changes in mood are also known to be associated with changes in immune and cardiovascular response. There is evidence that interventions that are successful in improving subjective well-being can have beneficial effects on aspects of health. For example, meditation and relaxation training have been found to increase positive affect and to reduce blood pressure. The effect of specific types of subjective well-being is not entirely clear. For example, how durable the effects of mood and emotions on health are remains unclear. Whether some types of subjective well-being predict health independently of others is also unclear. Meditation has the power to increase happiness because it can improve self-confidence and reduces anxiety, which increases your well-being. Cultivating personal strengths and resources, like humour, social/animal company, and daily occupations, also appears to help people preserve acceptable levels of SWB despite the presence of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Research suggests that probing a patient’s happiness is one of the most important things a doctor can do to predict that patient’s health and longevity. In health-conscious modern societies, most people overlook the emotions as a vital component of one’s health, while over focusing on diet and exercise. According to Diener & Biswas-Diener, people who are happy become less sick than people who are unhappy. There are three types of health: morbidity, survival, and longevity. Evidence suggests that all three can be improved through happiness:
Morbidity, simply put, is whether or not someone develops a serious illness, such as the flu or cancer. In a 30-year longitudinal study, participants who were high in positive emotions were found to have lower rates of many health problems. Some of these illnesses/problems include lower death rates from heart disease, suicide, accidents, homicides, mental illnesses, drug dependency, and liver disease related to alcoholism. Additionally, results showed that depressed participants were more likely to have heart attacks and recurrences of heart attacks when compared to happy people.
Survival is the term used for what happens to a person after he/she has already developed or contracted a serious illness. Although happiness has been shown to increase health, with survival, this may not be the case. Survival may be the only area of health that evidence suggests happiness may actually be sometimes detrimental. It is unclear why exactly research results suggest this is the case, however Diener & Biswas-Diener offer an explanation. It is possible that happy people fail to report symptoms of the illness, which can ultimately lead to no treatment or inadequate treatment. Another possible reason may be that happy people tend to be optimistic, leading them to take their symptoms too lightly, seek treatment too late, and/or follow the doctor’s instructions half-heartedly. And lastly, Diener & Biswas-Diener suggest that people with serious illnesses may be more likely to choose to live out the rest of their days without painful or invasive treatments.
Longevity, the third area of health, is measured by an individual’s age of death. Head researcher Deborah Danner of the University of Kentucky researched links between an individual’s happiness and that individual’s longevity. Danner recruited 180 Catholic nuns from a nearby convent as the participants of her study. She chose nuns because they live very similar lives. This eliminates many confounding variables that might be present in other samples, which can lead to inaccurate results. Such confounding variables could include substance use, diet, and sexual risk-taking. Since there are few differences among the nuns as far as the confounding variables, this sample offered the best option to match a controlled laboratory setting. Results showed that nuns who were considered happy or positive in their manner and language on average lived 10 years longer than the nuns who were considered unhappy or negative in their manner and language. A follow-up study by health researcher Sarah Pressman examined 96 famous psychologists to determine if similar results from the nun research would be seen as well. Pressman’s results showed that the positive or happy psychologists lived, on average, 6 years longer. The psychologists who were considered negative or unhappy lived, on average, 5 years less.
A positive relationship has been found between the volume of gray matter in the right precuneus area of the brain, and the subject’s subjective happiness score. A six-week mindfulness based intervention was found to correlate with a significant gray matter increase within the precuneus.
There are a number of domains that are thought to contribute to subjective well-being. In a study by Hribernik and Mussap (2010), leisure satisfaction was found to predict unique variance in life satisfaction, supporting its inclusion as a distinct life domain contributing to subjective well-being. Additionally, relationship status interacted with age group and gender on differences in leisure satisfaction. The relationship between leisure satisfaction and life satisfaction, however, was reduced when considering the impact of core affect (underlying mood state). This suggests that leisure satisfaction may primarily be influenced by an individual’s subjective well-being level as represented by core affect. This has implications for possible limitations in the extent to which leisure satisfaction may be improved beyond pre-existing levels of well-being and mood in individuals.
Although all cultures seem to value happiness, cultures vary in how they define happiness. There is also evidence that people in more individualistic cultures tend to rate themselves as higher in subjective well-being compared to people in more collectivistic cultures.
In Western cultures, predictors of happiness include elements that support personal independence, a sense of personal agency, and self-expression. In Eastern cultures, predictors of happiness focus on an interdependent self that is inseparable from significant others. Compared to people in individualistic cultures, people in collectivistic cultures are more likely to base their judgments of life satisfaction on how significant others appraise their life than on the balance of inner emotions experienced as pleasant versus unpleasant. Pleasant emotional experiences have a stronger social component in East Asian cultures compared to Western ones. For example, people in Japan are more likely to associate happiness with interpersonally engaging emotions (such as friendly feelings), whereas people in the United States are more likely to associate happiness with interpersonally disengaging emotions (pride, for example). There are also cultural differences in motives and goals associated with happiness. For example, Asian Americans tend to experience greater happiness after achieving goals that are pleasing to or approved of by significant others compared to European Americans. There is also evidence that high self-esteem, a sense of personal control and a consistent sense of identity relate more strongly to SWB in Western cultures than they do in Eastern ones. However, this is not to say that these things are unimportant to SWB in Eastern cultures. Research has found that even within Eastern cultures, people with high self-esteem and a more consistent sense of identity are somewhat happier than those who are low in these characteristics. There is no evidence that low self-esteem and so on are actually beneficial to SWB in any known culture.
A large body of research evidence has confirmed that people in individualistic societies report higher levels of happiness than people in collectivistic ones and that socioeconomic factors alone are insufficient to explain this difference. In addition to political and economic differences, individualistic versus collectivistic nations reliably differ in a variety of psychological characteristics that are related to SWB, such as emotion norms and attitudes to the expression of individual needs. Collectivistic cultures are based around the belief that the individual exists for the benefit of the larger social unit, whereas more individualistic cultures assume the opposite. Collectivistic cultures emphasize maintaining social order and harmony and therefore expect members to suppress their personal desires when necessary in order to promote collective interests. Such cultures therefore consider self-regulation more important than self-expression or than individual rights. Individualistic cultures by contrast emphasize the inalienable value of each person and expect individuals to become self-directive and self-sufficient. Although people in collectivistic cultures may gain happiness from the social approval they receive from suppressing self-interest, research seems to suggest that self-expression produces a greater happiness “payoff” compared to seeking approval outside oneself.
Despite westerners reporting higher levels of subjective well-being than easterners, they also have more frequent reports of depression. The differing beliefs on self-expression help explain what may at first seem paradoxical. Westerners tend to encourage individual expression, which leads to a greater focus on one’s own emotions. This increased self-awareness combines with the normative belief that joy should be more common than sadness. People living under these conditions can catastrophize their own negative emotions; feeling increased sadness over the fact that they are either not currently happy or frequently happy. Easterners tend to be more concerned about their collective’s feelings over their own individual feelings. They do not typically catastrophise their sadness, and learn to brush it off.
Positive psychology is particularly concerned with the study of SWB. Positive psychology was founded by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) who identified that psychology is not just the study of pathology, weakness, and damage; but it is also the study of strength and virtue. Researchers in positive psychology have pointed out that in almost every culture studied the pursuit of happiness is regarded as one of the most valued goals in life. Understanding individual differences in SWB is of key interest in positive psychology, particularly the issue of why some people are happier than others. Some people continue to be happy in the face of adversity whereas others are chronically unhappy at the best of times.
Positive psychology has investigated how people might improve their level of SWB and maintain these improvements over the longer term, rather than returning to baseline. Lyubomirsky (2001) argued that SWB is influenced by a combination of personality/genetics (studies have found that genetic influences usually account for 35-50% of the variance in happiness measures), external circumstances, and activities that affect SWB. She argued that changing one’s external circumstances tends to have only a temporary effect on SWB, whereas engaging in activities (mental and/or physical) that enhance SWB can lead to more lasting improvements in SWB.
Use in Happiness Economics
SWB is often used in appraising the wellbeing of populations.
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjective_well-being >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.
A charitable organisation, or charity, is an organisation whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being (e.g. educational, religious or other activities serving the public interest or common good).
The legal definition of a charitable organisation (and of charity) varies between countries and in some instances regions of the country. The regulation, the tax treatment, and the way in which charity law affects charitable organisations also vary. Charitable organisations may not use any of their funds to profit individual persons or entities. However, some charitable organisations have come under scrutiny for spending a disproportionate amount of their income to pay the salaries of their leadership.
Financial figures (e.g. tax refund, revenue from fundraising, revenue from sale of goods and services or revenue from investment) are indicators to assess the financial sustainability of a charity, especially to charity evaluators. This information can impact a charity’s reputation with donors and societies, and thus the charity’s financial gains.
Charitable organisations often depend partly on donations from businesses. Such donations to charitable organisations represent a major form of corporate philanthropy.
In order to meet the exempt organisational test requirements, a charity has to be exclusively organised and operated. In order to receive and pass the exemption test, a charitable organisation must follow the public interest and all exempt income should be for the public interest. For example, in many countries of the Commonwealth, charitable organisations must demonstrate that they provide a public benefit.
Until the mid-18th century, charity was mainly distributed through religious structures (such as the English Poor Laws of 1601), almshouses and bequests from the rich. Christianity, Judaism and Islam incorporated significant charitable elements from their very beginnings and dāna (alms-giving) has a long tradition in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Charities provided education, health, housing and even prisons. Almshouses were established throughout Europe in the Early Middle Ages to provide a place of residence for poor, old and distressed people; King Athelstan of England (reigned 924–939) founded the first recorded almshouse in York in the 10th century.
In the Enlightenment era, charitable and philanthropic activity among voluntary associations and rich benefactors became a widespread cultural practice. Societies, gentleman’s clubs, and mutual associations began to flourish in England, and the upper-classes increasingly adopted a philanthropic attitude toward the disadvantaged. In England this new social activism was channelled into the establishment of charitable organizations; these proliferated from the middle of the 18th century.
This emerging upper-class fashion for benevolence resulted in the incorporation of the first charitable organisations. Captain Thomas Coram, appalled by the number of abandoned children living on the streets of London, set up the Foundling Hospital in 1741 to look after these unwanted orphans in Lamb’s Conduit Fields, Bloomsbury. This, the first such charity in the world, served as the precedent for incorporated associational charities in general.
Jonas Hanway, another notable philanthropist of the Enlightenment era, established The Marine Society in 1756 as the first seafarer’s charity, in a bid to aid the recruitment of men to the navy. By 1763 the Society had recruited over 10,000 men; an Act of Parliament incorporated it in 1772. Hanway was also instrumental in establishing the Magdalen Hospital to rehabilitate prostitutes. These organizations were funded by subscription and run as voluntary associations. They raised public awareness of their activities through the emerging popular press and were generally held in high social regard – some charities received state recognition in the form of the royal charter.
Charities also began to adopt campaigning roles, where they would champion a cause and lobby the government for legislative change. This included organised campaigns against the ill treatment of animals and children and the campaign that eventually succeeded at the turn of the 19th century in ending the slave trade throughout the British Empire and within its considerable sphere of influence. (This process was however a lengthy one, which finally concluded when Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962.)
The Enlightenment also saw growing philosophical debate between those who championed state intervention and those who believed that private charities should provide welfare. The Reverend Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), the political economist, criticised poor relief for paupers on economic and moral grounds and proposed leaving charity entirely to the private sector. His views became very influential and informed the Victorian laissez-faire attitude toward state intervention for the poor.
Growth during 19th Century
During the 19th century a profusion of charitable organisations emerged to alleviate the awful conditions of the working class in the slums. The Labourer’s Friend Society, chaired by Lord Shaftesbury in the United Kingdom in 1830, aimed to improve working-class conditions. It promoted, for example, the allotment of land to labourers for “cottage husbandry” that later became the allotment movement. In 1844 it became the first Model Dwellings Company – one of a group of organisations that sought to improve the housing conditions of the working classes by building new homes for them, at the same time receiving a competitive rate of return on any investment. This was one of the first housing associations, a philanthropic endeavour that flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century brought about by the growth of the middle class. Later associations included the Peabody Trust (originating in 1862) and the Guinness Trust (founded in 1890). The principle of philanthropic intention with capitalist return was given the label “five per cent philanthropy”.
There was strong growth in municipal charities. The Brougham Commission led on to the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, which reorganised multiple local charities by incorporating them into single entities under supervision from local government.
Charities at the time, including the Charity Organisation Society (established in 1869) tended to discriminate between the “deserving poor” who would be provided with suitable relief and the “underserving” or “improvident poor” who were regarded as the cause of their own woes through their idleness. Charities tended to oppose the provision of welfare by the state, due to the perceived demoralising effect. Although minimal state involvement was the dominant philosophy of the period, there was still significant government involvement in the shape of statutory regulation and even limited funding.
Philanthropy became a very fashionable activity among the expanding middle classes in Britain and America. Octavia Hill (1838-1912) and John Ruskin (1819-1900) were an important force behind the development of social housing, and Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) exemplified the large-scale philanthropy of the newly rich in industrialised America. In Gospel of Wealth (1889), Carnegie wrote about the responsibilities of great wealth and the importance of social justice. He established public libraries throughout the English-speaking countries as well as contributing large sums to schools and universities. A little over ten years after his retirement, Carnegie had given away over 90% of his fortune.
Towards the end of the 19th century, with the advent of the New Liberalism and the innovative work of Charles Booth on documenting working-class life in London, attitudes towards poverty began to change, which led to the first social liberal welfare reforms, including the provision of old age pensions and free school-meals.
During the 20th century charitable organisations such as Oxfam (established in 1947), Care International and Amnesty International greatly expanded, becoming large, multinational, non-governmental organisations with very large budgets.
Since the 21st Century
With the advent of the Internet, charitable organisations established a presence in online social media and started, for example, cyber-based humanitarian crowdfunding such as GoFundMe. Another charitable organisation is Beyond the Crisis. This organisation distributes food and resources to housing communities and homeless shelters in the US. It was established by young philanthropists Camden and Colton Francis.
The definition of charity in Australia is derived through English common law, originally from the Charitable Uses Act 1601, and then through several centuries of case law based upon it. In 2002, the federal government established an inquiry into the definition of a charity. The inquiry proposed a statutory definition of a charity, based on the principles developed through case law. This resulted in the Charities Bill 2003, which included limitations on involvement of charities in political campaigning, which many charities saw as an unwelcome departure from the case law. The government appointed a Board of Taxation inquiry to consult with charities on the bill. As a result of widespread criticism from charities, the government abandoned the bill.
The government then introduced what became the Extension of Charitable Purpose Act 2004, which did not attempt to codify the definition of a charitable purpose, but merely sought to clarify that certain purposes were charitable, whose charitable status had been subject to legal doubts. These purposes included childcare, self-help groups, and closed/contemplative religious orders.
To publicly raise funds, a charity in Australia must register in each Australian jurisdiction in which it intends to raise funds. In Queensland, for example, charities must register with the Queensland Office of Fair Trading. Also, any charity fundraising online must have approval in every Australian jurisdiction that requires them to do so, which is currently New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory. Many Australian charities have called on federal, state, and territory governments to enact uniform legislation to enable charities registered in a state or territory to be allowed to raise funds in all other Australian jurisdictions.
The Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) commenced operations in December 2012 and regulates the approximately 56,000 non-profit organisations with tax exempt status, and about 600,000 other NPO in total and seeks to harmonise state-based fund-raising laws.
A Public Benevolent Institution (PBI) is a particular type of charity whose main purpose is to relieve suffering in the community, whether though poverty, sickness, or disability. Examples of institutions which might qualify include hospices, providers of subsidised housing and some not-for-profit aged care services.
Charities in Canada must be registered with the Charities Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency. According to the Canada Revenue Agency:
A registered charity is an organisation established and operated for charitable purposes, and must devote its resources to charitable activities. The charity must be resident in Canada, and cannot use its income to benefit its members. A charity also has to meet a public benefit test. To qualify under this test, an organisation must show that:
Its activities and purposes provide a tangible benefit to the public
Those people who are eligible for benefits are either the public as a whole, or a significant section of it, in that they are not a restricted group or one where members share a private connection, such as social clubs or professional associations with specific membership
The charity’s activities must be legal and must not be contrary to public policy
To register as a charity, the organisation has to be either incorporated or governed by a legal document called a trust or a constitution. This document has to explain the organisation’s purposes and structure.
Most French charities are registered under the statute of loi d’association de 1901, a type of legal entity for non-profit NGOs. This statute is extremely common in France for any type of group that wants to be institutionalised (sports clubs, book clubs, support groups…) as it is very easy to set up and requires very little documentation. However, for an organisation under the statute of loi 1901 to be considered a charity, it has to file while the authorities to come under the label of “association d’utilité publique” which means “NGO acting for the public interest”. This label gives the NGO some tax exemptions.
In Hungary, charities are called “Public benefit organisations” (Hungarian: Közhasznú szervezet). The term was introduced on 01 January 1997 by the Act on Public Benefit Organisations.
Under Indian law, legal entities such as charitable organisations, corporations, and managing bodies have been given the status of the “legal person” with legal rights, such as to sue and be sued, and to own and transfer property.
In Ireland, the Charities Act (2009) legislated for the establishment of a “Charities Regulatory Authority”, and the Charities Regulator was subsequently created (via a ministerial order) in 2014. This was the first legal framework for the registration of charities in Ireland. The Charities Regulator maintains a database of organisations which have granted charitable tax exemption, a list which was previously maintained by the Revenue Commissioners. Such organisations would have a CHY number for the Revenue Commissioners, a CRO number for the Companies Registration Office and a charity number for the Charities Regulator.
The Irish Nonprofits Database was created by Irish Nonprofits Knowledge Exchange (INKEx) to act as a repository for regulatory and voluntarily disclosed information about Irish public benefit non-profits.
Charitable organisations in Nigeria are registerable under “Part C” of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020. Under the law, the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigeria being the official Nigerian Corporate Registry, is empowered to maintain and regulate the formation, operation and dissolution of charitable organisations in Nigeria. Charitable organisations in Nigeria are exempted under §25(c) of the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA) Cap. C21 LFN 2004 (as amended) which exempts from income tax corporate organisations engaged wholly in ecclesiastical, charitable or educational activities. Similarly, §3 of Value Added Tax Act (VATA) Cap. V1 LFN 2004 (as amended), and the 1st Schedule to the VATA on exempted Goods and Services goods zero-rates goods and services purchased by any ecclesiastical, charitable or educational institutions in furtherance of their charitable mandates.
Public benefit organisation (Polish: organizacja pożytku publicznego, often abbreviated OPP) is a term used in Polish law, introduced on 01 January 2004 by the statute on public good activity and volunteering. Charitable organisations of public good are allowed to receive 1% of income tax from individuals, so they are “tax-deductible organisations”. To receive such status, an organisation has to be a NGO (political parties and trade unions do not qualify), involved in specific activities related to public good as described by the law, and be sufficiently transparent in its activities, governance and finances. Also data has shown that this evidence is to the point and makes sense.
Polish charitable organisations with that status include Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego, Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, KARTA Centre, Institute of Public Affairs, Silesian Fantasy Club, Polish Historical Society, and Polish chapter of Wikimedia Foundation.
The legal framework in Singapore is regulated in the Singapore Charities Act (Chapter 37). Charities in Singapore must be registered with the Charities Directorate of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. One can also find specific organisations that are members of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) which is operated by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Legislation of charitable activity and obtainment of charitable organisation status is regulated by the Civil Code of Ukraine and by Law of Ukraine Charitable Activities and Charitable Organisations.
By Ukrainian law, there are three forms of charitable organisations:
A “charitable society” is a charitable organisation created by at least two founders and operates on the basis of the charter or statute;
A “charitable institution” is a type of charitable trust, acts on the basis of the constituent or founding act; charitable organisation whose founding act defines assets that one or several founders transfer to achieve the goals of charitable activity from such assets and/or income from such assets. A constituent act of a charitable institution may be contained in a will or testament. The founder or founders of the charitable institution do not participate in the management such charitable organisation; and
A “charitable fund” or “charitable foundation” is a charitable organisation that operates on the basis of the charter; has participants or members and is managed by them; participants or members are not obliged to transfer any assets to such organization in order to achieve the goals of charitable activity; charitable foundation can be created by one or several founders. The assets of charitable fund can be formed by participants and/or other benefactors.
The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine is the main registration authority for charitable organisation registration and constitution. Individuals and legal entities, except for public authorities and local governments, can be the founders of charitable organisations. Charitable societies and charitable foundations may have (besides founders) other participants who have joined them in the way prescribed by the charters of such charitable associations or charitable foundations. Aliens (non-Ukrainian citizens and legal entities, corporations or NGO’s) can be the founders and members of philanthropic organisation in Ukraine.
All funds received by a charitable organisation that were used for charity purposes are exempt from taxation, but it requires obtaining of non-profit status from tax authority.
Legalisation needed for International charitable fund to make activity in Ukraine.
Charity law within the UK varies among (i) England and Wales, (ii) Scotland and (iii) Northern Ireland, but the fundamental principles are the same. Most organisations that are charities are required to registered with the appropriate regulator for their jurisdiction, but significant exceptions apply so that many organisations are bona fide charities but do not appear on a public register. The registers are maintained by the Charity Commission for England and Wales and for Scotland by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland maintains a register of charities that have completed formal registration (see below). Organisations applying must meet the specific legal requirements summarised below, and have filing requirements with their regulator, and are subject to inspection or other forms of review. The oldest charity in the UK is The King’s School, Canterbury established in 597.
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 subjects charities to regulation by the Electoral Commission in the run-up to a general election.
England and Wales
Section 1 Charities Act 2011 provides the definition in England and Wales:
(1) For the purposes of the law of England and Wales, “charity” means an institution which – (a) is established for charitable purposes only, and (b) falls to be subject to the control of the High Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to charities.
The Charities Act 2011 provides the following list of charitable purposes:
the prevention or relief of poverty
the advancement of education
the advancement of religion
the advancement of health or the saving of lives
the advancement of citizenship or community development
the advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science
the advancement of amateur sport
the advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity
the advancement of environmental protection or improvement
the relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage
the advancement of animal welfare
the promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown or of the police, fire and rescue services or ambulance services
other purposes currently recognised as charitable and any new charitable purposes which are similar to another charitable purpose.
A charity must also provide a public benefit.
Before the Charities Act 2006, which introduced the definition now contained in the 2011 Act, the definition of charity arose from a list of charitable purposes in the Charitable Uses Act 1601 (also known as the Statute of Elizabeth), which had been interpreted and expanded into a considerable body of case law. In Commissioners for Special Purposes of Income Tax v. Pemsel (1891), Lord McNaughten identified four categories of charity which could be extracted from the Charitable Uses Act and which were the accepted definition of charity prior to the Charities Act 2006:
the relief of poverty,
the advancement of education,
the advancement of religion, and
other purposes considered beneficial to the community.
Charities in England and Wales – such as Age UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) – must comply with the 2011 Act regulating matters such as charity reports and accounts and fundraising.
As of 2011, there are a number of types of legal structure for a charity in England and Wales:
Company limited by guarantee
Another incorporation, such as by royal charter
Charitable incorporated organisation
The unincorporated association is the most common form of organisation within the voluntary sector in England and Wales. This is essentially a contractual arrangement between individuals who have agreed to come together to form an organisation for a particular purpose. An unincorporated association will normally have as its governing document a constitution or set of rules, which will deal with such matters as the appointment of office bearers, and the rules governing membership. The organization is not though a separate legal entity, so it cannot start legal action, it cannot borrow money, and it cannot enter into contracts in its own name. Its officers can be personally liable if the charity is sued or has debts.
A trust is essentially a relationship among three parties: the donor of some assets, the trustees who hold the assets, and the beneficiaries (those people who are eligible to benefit from the charity). When the trust has charitable purposes, and is a charity, the trust is known as a charitable trust. The governing document is the trust deed or declaration of trust, which comes into operation once it is signed by all the trustees. The main disadvantage of a trust is that, as with an unincorporated association, it does not have a separate legal entity and the trustees must themselves own property and enter into contracts. The trustees are also liable if the charity is sued or incurs liability.
A company limited by guarantee is a private limited company where the liability of members is limited. A guarantee company does not have a share capital, but instead has members who are guarantors instead of shareholders. In the event of the company being wound up, the members agree to pay a nominal sum which can be as little as £1. A company limited by guarantee is a useful structure for a charity where it is desirable for the trustees to have the protection of limited liability. Also, the charity has legal personality, and so can enter into contracts, such as employment contracts in its own name.
A small number of charities are incorporated by royal charter, a document which creates a corporation with legal personality (or, in some instances, transforms a charity incorporated as a company into a charity incorporated by royal charter). The charter must be approved by the Privy Council before receiving royal assent. Although the nature of the charity will vary depending on the clauses enacted, generally a royal charter will offer a charity the same limited liability as a company and the ability to enter into contracts.
The Charities Act 2006 legislated for a new legal form of incorporation designed specifically for charities, the charitable incorporated organisation, with powers similar to a company but without the need to register as a company. Becoming a CIO was only made possible in 2013, with staggered introduction dates, with the charities with highest turnover eligible first.
The word foundation is not generally used in England and Wales. Occasionally, a charity will use the word as part of its name, e.g. British Heart Foundation, but this has no legal significance and does not provide any information about either the work of the charity or how it is legally structured. The structure of the organisation will be one of the types of structure described above.
Charitable organisations that have an income of more than £5,000, and for whom the law of England and Wales applies, must register with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, unless they are an “exempt” or “excepted” charity. For companies, the law of England and Wales will normally apply if the company itself is registered in England and Wales. In other cases, if the governing document does not make it clear, the law which applies will be the country with which the organisation is most connected.
When an organisation’s income does not exceed £5,000, it is not able to register as a charity with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. It can, however, register as a charity with HM Revenue and Customs for tax purposes only. With the rise in mandatory registration level, to £5,000 by The Charities Act 2006, smaller charities can be reliant upon HMRC recognition to evidence their charitable purpose and confirm their not-for-profit principles.
Churches with an annual income of less than £100,000 need not register.
Some charities which are called exempt charities are not required to register with the Charity Commission and are not subject to any of the Charity Commission’s supervisory powers. These charities include most universities and national museums and some other educational institutions. Other charities are excepted from the need to register, but are still subject to the supervision of the Charity Commission. The regulations on excepted charities have however been changed by the Charities Act 2006. Many excepted charities are religious charities.
The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland was established in 2009 and has received the names and details of over 7,000 organisations in Northern Ireland that have previously been granted charitable status for tax purposes (the “deemed list”). Compulsory registration of organisations from the deemed list began in December 2013, and it is expected to take three to four years to complete. The new Register of Charities is publicly available on the CCNI website and contains the details of those organisations who have so far been confirmed by the commission to exist for charitable purposes and the public benefit. The Commission estimates that there are between 5,000 and 11,500 charitable organisations to be formally registered in total.
The 24,000 or so charities in Scotland are registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), which also publishes a register of charities online.
Charitable organisations, including charitable trusts, are eligible for a complex set of reliefs and exemptions from taxation in the UK. These include reliefs and exemptions in relation to income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, stamp duty land tax and value added tax. These tax exemptions have led to criticisms that private schools are able to use charitable status as a tax avoidance technique rather than because they offer a genuine charitable good.
In the United States, a charitable organisation is an organisation operated for purposes that are beneficial to the public interest. There are different types of charitable organisations. Every US and foreign charity that qualifies as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code is considered a “private foundation” unless it demonstrates to the IRS that it falls into another category. Generally, any organization that is not a private foundation (i.e., it qualifies as something else) is usually a public charity as described in Section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.
In addition, a private foundation usually derives its principal funding from an individual, family, corporation, or some other single source and is more often than not a grantmaker and does not solicit funds from the public. In contrast, a foundation or public charity generally receives grants from individuals, government, and private foundations, and while some public charities engage in grantmaking activities, most conduct direct service or other tax-exempt activities. Foundations that are generally grantmakers (i.e. they use their endowment to make grants to other organisations, which in turn carry out the goals of the foundation indirectly) are usually called “grantmaker” or “non-operating” foundations.
The requirements and procedures for forming charitable organisations vary from state to state, as do the registration and filing requirements for charitable organisations that conduct charitable activities, solicit charitable contributions, or hire professional fundraisers. In practice, the detailed definition of “charitable organisation” is determined by the requirements of state law where the charitable organisation operates, and the requirements for federal tax relief by the IRS.
Resources exist to provide information, even rankings, of US charities.
Federal Tax Relief
Federal tax law provides tax benefits to non-profit organisations recognised as exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The benefits of 501(c)(3) status include exemption from federal income tax as well as eligibility to receive tax deductible charitable contributions. There was a total of $281.86 billion tax deductible donations by individuals in 2017.
To qualify for 501(c)(3) status most organisations must apply to the IRS for such status.
Several requirements must be met for a charitable organisation to obtain 501(c)(3) status. These include the organisation being organized as a corporation, trust, or unincorporated association, and the organisation’s organising document (such as the articles of incorporation, trust documents, or articles of association) must limit its purposes to being charitable, and permanently dedicate its assets to charitable purposes. The organisation must refrain from undertaking a number of other activities such as participating in the political campaigns of candidates for local, state or federal office, and must ensure that its earnings do not benefit any individual. Most tax exempt organisations are required to file annual financial reports (IRS Form 990) at the state and federal level. A tax exempt organisation’s 990 and some other forms are required to be made available to public scrutiny.
The types of charitable organisation that are considered by the IRS to be organised for the public benefit include those that are organised for:
Relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged
Advancement of religion
Advancement of education or science
Construction or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works
Lessening the burdens of government
Lessening of neighbourhood tensions
Elimination of prejudice and discrimination
Defence of human and civil rights secured by law
Combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.
A number of other organisations may also qualify for exempt status, including those organised for religious, scientific, literary and educational purposes, as well as those for testing for public safety and for fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Charity has received criticism. These criticisms include:
charity only addressing the symptoms of a problem instead of the causes of a problem
charity being a worse substitute for change that does not fix the fundamental injustices in the structures and values of a society,
charity not providing the best solutions to problems in a society,
charity resulting in less state funding of essential services, because it replaces state services with those provided by external institutions at a lower cost
charity leading to favouritism instead of fairness,
tax incentives for donorship to charity results in the worsening of social inequalities by reducing the revenue a state has available for social projects and retaining class systems within society,
inefficient charitable giving, largely due to the splintering of funds that could be better used if pooled together,
charities misusing their funds,
characters are more accountable to donors and funders than the recipients of the charity,
charities giving aid conditionally.
through eligibility requirements such as sobriety, piety, curfews, participation in job training or parenting courses, cooperation with the police, or identifying the paternity of children, charity models enforce the concept that only those who can prove their moral worth deserve help, motivating citizens to accept exploitative wage or condition in order to avoid being subject to the charitable system.
charity makes rich people and corporations look generous and upholds and legitimizes the systems that concentrate wealth.
charity is increasingly privatised and contracted out to the massive non-profit sector, wherein organisations compete for grants to address social problems. Donors can protect their money from taxation by storing it in foundations that fund their pet projects, most of which have nothing to do with poor people.
Economist Robert Reich criticised the practice of billionaires giving some of their money to charity, calling it mostly “self-serving rubbish”. Mathew Snow of American socialist magazine Jacobin criticised charity for “creating an individualized ‘culture of giving'” instead of “challenging capitalism’s institutionalized taking.”
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charitable_organization >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.
Salutogenesis is the study of the origins of health and focuses on factors that support human health and well-being, rather than on factors that cause disease (pathogenesis).
More specifically, the “salutogenic model” was originally concerned with the relationship between health, stress, and coping through a study of Holocaust survivors. Despite going through the dramatic tragedy of the holocaust, some survivors were able to thrive later in life. The discovery that there must be powerful health causing factors led to the development of salutogenesis. The term was coined by Aaron Antonovsky, a professor of medical sociology. The salutogenic question posed by Aaron Antonovsky is, “How can this person be helped to move toward greater health?”
Antonovsky’s theories reject the “traditional medical-model dichotomy separating health and illness”. He described the relationship as a continuous variable, what he called the “health-ease versus dis-ease continuum”. Salutogenesis now encompasses more than the origins of health and has evolved to be about multidimensional causes of higher levels of health. Models associated with salutogenesis generally include wholistic approaches related to at least the physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational, and environmental dimensions.
The word “salutogenesis” comes from the Latin salus (meaning health) and the Greek genesis (meaning origin). Antonovsky developed the term from his studies of “how people manage stress and stay well” (unlike pathogenesis which studies the causes of diseases). He observed that stress is ubiquitous, but not all individuals have negative health outcomes in response to stress. Instead, some people achieve health despite their exposure to potentially disabling stress factors.
In his 1979 book, Health, Stress and Coping, Antonovsky described a variety of influences that led him to the question of how people survive, adapt, and overcome in the face of even the most punishing life-stress experiences. In his 1987 book, Unravelling the Mysteries of Health, he focused more specifically on a study of women and aging; he found that 29% of women who had survived Nazi concentration camps had positive emotional health, compared to 51% of a control group. His insight was that 29% of the survivors were not emotionally impaired by the stress. Antonovsky wrote: “this for me was the dramatic experience that consciously set me on the road to formulating what I came to call the ‘salutogenic model’.”
In salutogenic theory, people continually battle with the effects of hardship. These ubiquitous forces are called generalised resource deficits (GRDs). On the other hand, there are generalised resistance resources (GRRs), which are all of the resources that help a person cope and are effective in avoiding or combating a range of psychosocial stressors. Examples are resources such as money, ego-strength, and social support.
GRDs will cause the coping mechanisms to fail whenever the sense of coherence is not robust to weather the current situation. This causes illness and possibly even death. However, if the sense of coherence is high, a stressor will not necessarily be harmful. But it is the balance between GRDs and GRRs that determines whether a factor will be pathogenic, neutral, or salutary.
Antonovsky’s formulation was that the GRRs enabled individuals to make sense of and manage events. He argued that over time, in response to positive experiences provided by successful use of different resources, an individual would develop an attitude that was “in itself the essential tool for coping”.
Sense of Coherence
The “sense of coherence” is a theoretical formulation that provides a central explanation for the role of stress in human functioning. “Beyond the specific stress factors that one might encounter in life, and beyond your perception and response to those events, what determines whether stress will cause you harm is whether or not the stress violates your sense of coherence.” Antonovsky defined Sense of Coherence as:
“a global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that (1) the stimuli deriving from one’s internal and external environments in the course of living are structured, predictable and explicable; (2) the resources are available to one to meet the demands posed by these stimuli; and (3) these demands are challenges, worthy of investment and engagement.”
In his formulation, the sense of coherence has three components:
Comprehensibility: a belief that things happen in an orderly and predictable fashion and a sense that you can understand events in your life and reasonably predict what will happen in the future.
Manageability: a belief that you have the skills or ability, the support, the help, or the resources necessary to take care of things, and that things are manageable and within your control.
Meaningfulness: a belief that things in life are interesting and a source of satisfaction, that things are really worthwhile and that there is good reason or purpose to care about what happens.
According to Antonovsky, the third element is the most important. If a person believes there is no reason to persist and survive and confront challenges, if they have no sense of meaning, then they will have no motivation to comprehend and manage events. His essential argument is that “salutogenesis” depends on experiencing a strong “sense of coherence”. His research demonstrated that the sense of coherence predicts positive health outcomes.
Fields of Application
Health and Medicine
Antonovsky viewed his work as primarily addressed to the fields of health psychology, behavioural medicine, and the sociology of health. It has been adopted as a term to describe contemporary approaches to nursing, psychiatry, integrative medicine, and healthcare architecture. The salutogenic framework has also been adapted as a method for decision making on the fly; the method has been applied for emergency care and for healthcare architecture. Incorporating concepts from salutogenesis can support a transition from curative to preventive medicine.
The sense of coherence with its three components meaningfulness, manageability and understandability has also been applied to the workplace.
Meaningfulness is considered to be related to the feeling of participation and motivation and to a perceived meaning of the work. The meaningfulness component has also been linked with job control and task significance. Job control implies that employees have more authority to make decisions concerning their work and the working process. Task significance involves “the experience of congruence between personal values and work activities, which is accompanied by strong feelings of identification with the attitudes, values or goals of the working tasks and feelings of motivation and involvement”.
The manageability component is considered to be linked to job control as well as to access to resources. It has also been considered to be linked with social skills and trust. Social relations relate also to the meaningfulness component.
The comprehensibility component may be influenced by consistent feedback at work, for example concerning the performance appraisal.
Salutogenics perspectives are also considered in the design of offices.
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salutogenesis >; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.
Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being.
It studies “positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions…it aims to improve quality of life.” It is a field of study that has been growing steadily throughout the years as individuals and researchers look for common ground on better well-being.
Positive psychology began as a new domain of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. It is a reaction against past practices, which have tended to focus on mental illness and emphasized maladaptive behaviour and negative thinking. It builds on the humanistic movement by Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, James Bugental, and Carl Rogers, which encourages an emphasis on happiness, well-being, and positivity, thus creating the foundation for what is now known as positive psychology.
Positive psychology focuses on eudaimonia, an Ancient Greek term for “the good life” and the concept for reflection on the factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. Positive psychologists often use the terms subjective well-being and happiness interchangeably.
Positive psychologists have suggested a number of factors may contribute to happiness and subjective well-being. For example, social ties with a spouse, family, friends, colleagues, and wider networks; membership in clubs or social organisations; physical exercise; and the practice of meditation. Spirituality can also be considered a factor that leads to increased individual happiness and well-being. Spiritual practice and religious commitment is a topic researchers have been studying as another possible source for increased well-being and an added part of positive psychology. Happiness may rise with increasing financial income, though it may plateau or even fall when no further gains are made or after a certain cut-off amount.
Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi define positive psychology as “the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.”
Positive psychology is concerned with eudaimonia, meaning “the good life” or flourishing. It is focused on living according to what holds the greatest value in life and other such factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. While not attempting a strict definition of the good life, positive psychologists agree that one must live a happy, engaged, and meaningful life in order to experience “the good life.” Martin Seligman referred to “the good life” as using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.
Positive psychology complements, without intending to replace or ignore, the traditional areas of psychology. By emphasizing the study of positive human development, this field helps to balance other approaches that focus on disorder, which may produce only limited understanding. Positive psychology has also placed a significant emphasis on fostering positive self-esteem and self-image, though positive psychologists with a less humanist direction are less likely to focus as intently on such topics.
The basic premise of positive psychology is that human beings are often intrigued by the future more than they are driven by the past. It also suggests that a combination of positive experiences and emotions concerning the past, the present, and the future leads to a pleasant, happy life. Another aspect of this may come from our views outside of our own lives. Author of Grit, Angela Duckworth, might view this as having an other-centred purpose, of which could have a positive psychological effect on our lives. Seligman identified other possible goals: families and schools that allow children to grow, workplaces that aim for satisfaction and high productivity, and teaching others about positive psychology. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert has also written extensively on the affects of time perception and happiness.
Those who practice positive psychology attempt psychological interventions that foster positive attitudes toward one’s subjective experiences, individual traits, and life events. The goal is to minimise pathological thoughts that may arise in a hopeless mindset and to develop a sense of optimism toward life. Positive psychologists seek to encourage acceptance of one’s past, excitement and optimism about one’s future experiences, and a sense of contentment and well-being in the present.
Related concepts are happiness, well-being, quality of life, contentment, and meaningful life.
Happiness: Has been sought after and discussed throughout time. Research has concluded that happiness can be thought of in the way we act or what we do and how we think in relative terms to it.
Well-Being: Has often been referred to what is inherently good for an individual both physically and mentally, though other aspects could be added in to define well-being.
Quality of life: Quality of life encompasses more than just physical and mental well-being, it involves socioeconomic factors. It is also perceived differently in different cultures and regions around the world, but can come down to how well you are living and functioning in life.
According to Seligman and Peterson, positive psychology addresses three issues: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Positive emotions are concerned with being content with one’s past, being happy in the present and having hope for the future. Positive individual traits focus on one’s strengths and virtues. Finally, positive institutions are based on strengths to better a community of people.
According to Peterson, positive psychologists are concerned with four topics: positive experiences, enduring psychological traits, positive relationships, and positive institutions. He also states that topics of interest to topics of interest to researchers in the field are states of pleasure or flow, values, strengths, virtues, talents, as well as the ways that these can be promoted by social systems and institutions.
While the formal discipline of positive psychology has only existed since 2000, the concepts that form the basis of it have been the subject of empirical study since at least the 1980s, and present in religious and philosophical discourse for thousands of years. It has been influenced by humanistic as well as psychodynamic approaches to treatment. Predating the use of the term “positive psychology”, researchers within the field of psychology had been focusing on topics that would now be included under this new denomination.
The term positive psychology dates back at least to 1954, when Maslow’s first edition of Motivation and Personality was published with a final chapter titled “Toward a Positive Psychology.” In the second edition published in 1970, he removed that chapter, saying in the preface that “a positive psychology is at least available today though not very widely.” There have been indications that psychologists since the 1950s have been increasingly focused on the promotion of mental health rather than merely treating mental illness. From the beginning of psychology, the field has addressed the human experience using the “Disease Model,” specifically studying and identifying the dysfunction of an individual.
Positive psychology grew as an important field of study within psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. In the first sentence of his book Authentic Happiness, Seligman claimed: “for the last half century psychology has been consumed with a single topic only – mental illness,” expanding on Maslow’s comments. He urged psychologists to continue the earlier missions of psychology of nurturing talent and improving normal life.
The first positive psychology summit took place in 1999. The First International Conference on Positive Psychology took place in 2002. More attention was given by the general public in 2006 when, using the same framework, a course at Harvard University became particularly popular. In June 2009, the First World Congress on Positive Psychology took place at the University of Pennsylvania.
The field of positive psychology today is most advanced in the United States and Western Europe. Even though positive psychology offers a new approach to the study of positive emotions and behaviour, the ideas, theories, research, and motivation to study the positive side of human behaviour is as old as humanity.
Several humanistic psychologists, most notably Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm, developed theories and practices pertaining to human happiness and flourishing. More recently, positive psychologists have found empirical support for the humanistic theories of flourishing. In addition, positive psychology has moved ahead in a variety of new directions.
In 1984, Diener published his tripartite model of subjective well-being, positing “three distinct but often related components of wellbeing: frequent positive affect, infrequent negative affect, and cognitive evaluations such as life satisfaction.” In this model, cognitive, affective and contextual factors contribute to subjective well-being. According to Diener and Suh, subjective well-being is “based on the idea that how each person thinks and feels about his or her life is important.”
Carol Ryff’s Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being was initially published in 1989, and additional testing of its factors was published in 1995. It postulates six factors which are key for well-being, namely self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy, and positive relations with others.
According to Corey Keyes, who collaborated with Carol Ryff and uses the term flourishing as a central concept, mental well-being has three components, namely hedonic (c.q. subjective or emotional), psychological, and social well-being. Hedonic well-being concerns emotional aspects of well-being, whereas psychological and social well-being, c.q. eudaimonic well-being, concerns skills, abilities, and optimal functioning. This tripartite model of mental well-being has received extensive empirical support across cultures.
Influences in Ancient History
While the formal title “positive psychology” has only been in common use since around 2000, the concepts that form the basis of this field have been present in religious and philosophical discourse for thousands of years. The field of psychology predating the use of the term positive psychology has seen researchers who focused primarily on topics that would now be included under the umbrella of positive psychology. Some view positive psychology as a meeting of Eastern thought, such as Buddhism, and Western psychodynamic approaches. The historical roots of positive psychology are found in the teachings of Aristotle, whose Nicomachean Ethics teach the cultivation of moral virtue as the means of attaining happiness and well-being, which he referred to as eudaimonia.
Core Theory and Methods
There is no accepted “gold standard” theory in positive psychology. However, the work of Seligman is regularly quoted. So too the work of Csikszentmihalyi and older models of well-being, such as Carol Ryff’s Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being and Diener’s tripartite model of subjective well-being.
Initial Theory: Three Paths to Happiness
In Authentic Happiness (2002) Seligman proposed three kinds of a happy life that can be investigated:
Pleasant life: research into the Pleasant Life, or the “life of enjoyment,” examines how people optimally experience, forecast, and savour the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living (e.g. relationships, hobbies, interests, entertainment, etc.). Despite the attention given, Martin Seligman says this most transient element of happiness may be the least important.
Good Life: investigation of the beneficial effects of immersion, absorption, and flow felt by individuals when optimally engaged with their primary activities, is the study of the Good Life, or the “life of engagement.” Flow is experienced when there is a positive match between a person’s strength and their current task, i.e. when one feels confident of accomplishing a chosen or assigned task.
Meaningful Life: inquiry into the Meaningful Life, or “life of affiliation,” questions how individuals derive a positive sense of well-being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves (e.g. nature, social groups, organisations, movements, traditions, belief systems).
In Flourish (2011) Seligman argued that the last category of his proposed three kinds of a happy life, “meaningful life,” can be considered as 3 different categories. The resulting summary for this theory is Seligman’s PERMA acronym: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishments. It is a mnemonic for the five elements of Martin Seligman’s well-being theory:
Include a wide range of feelings, not just happiness and joy. Included are emotions like excitement, satisfaction, pride and awe, amongst others. These emotions are frequently seen as connected to positive outcomes, such as longer life and healthier social relationships.
Refers to involvement in activities that draws and builds upon one’s interests. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains true engagement as flow, a state of deep effortless involvement, feeling of intensity that leads to a sense of ecstasy and clarity. The task being done needs to call upon higher skill and be a bit difficult and challenging yet still possible. Engagement involves passion for and concentration on the task at hand and is assessed subjectively as to whether the person engaged was completely absorbed, losing self-consciousness.
Are essential in fuelling positive emotions, whether they are work-related, familial, romantic, or platonic. As Christopher Peterson puts it simply, “other people matter.” Humans receive, share, and spread positivity to others through relationships. They are important not only in bad times, but good times as well. In fact, relationships can be strengthened by reacting to one another positively. It is typical that most positive things take place in the presence of other people.
Is also known as purpose, and prompts the question of “why.” Discovering and figuring out a clear “why” puts everything into context from work to relationships to other parts of life. Finding meaning is learning that there is something greater than one’s self. Despite potential challenges, working with meaning drives people to continue striving for a desirable goal.
Are the pursuit of success and mastery. Unlike the other parts of PERMA, they are sometimes pursued even when accomplishments do not result in positive emotions, meaning, or relationships. That being noted, accomplishments can activate the other elements of PERMA, such as pride, under positive emotion. Accomplishments can be individual or community-based, fun- or work-based.
Each of the five PERMA elements was selected according to three criteria:
It contributes to well-being.
It is pursued for its own sake.
It is defined and measured independently of the other elements.
Character Strengths and Virtues
The development of the Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) handbook (2004) represented the first attempt by Seligman and Peterson to identify and classify positive psychological traits of human beings. Much like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of general psychology, the CSV provided a theoretical framework to assist in understanding strengths and virtues and for developing practical applications for positive psychology. This manual identified 6 classes of virtues (i.e. “core virtues”), underlying 24 measurable character strengths.
The CSV suggested these 6 virtues have a historical basis in the vast majority of cultures; in addition, these virtues and strengths can lead to increased happiness when built upon. Notwithstanding numerous cautions and caveats, this suggestion of universality hints threefold:
The study of positive human qualities broadens the scope of psychological research to include mental wellness;
The leaders of the positive psychology movement are challenging moral relativism, suggesting people are “evolutionarily predisposed” toward certain virtues; and
Virtue has a biological basis.
The organisation of the 6 virtues and 24 strengths is as follows:
Wisdom and knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation, prudence.
Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, self control.
Transcendence: appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality.
Recent research challenged the need for 6 virtues. Instead, researchers suggested the 24 strengths are more accurately grouped into just 3 or 4 categories: Intellectual Strengths, Interpersonal Strengths, and Temperance Strengths, or alternatively, Interpersonal Strengths, Fortitude, Vitality, and Cautiousness. These strengths, and their classifications, have emerged independently elsewhere in literature on values. Paul Thagard described examples, which included Jeff Shrager’s workshops to discover the habits of highly creative people. Some research indicates that well-being effects that appear to be due to spirituality are actually better described as due to virtue.
In the 1970s, Hungarian-American psychologist Csikszentmihalyi began studying flow, a state of absorption where one’s abilities are well-matched to the demands at-hand. Flow is characterised by intense concentration, loss of self-awareness, a feeling of being perfectly challenged (neither bored nor overwhelmed), and a sense that “time is flying.” Flow is intrinsically rewarding; it can also assist in the achievement of goals (e.g. winning a game) or improving skills (e.g. becoming a better chess player). Anyone can experience flow and it can be felt in different domains, such as play, creativity, and work. Flow is achieved when the challenge of the situation meets one’s personal abilities. A mismatch of challenge for someone of low skills results in a state of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed; insufficient challenge for someone highly skilled, results in boredom.
Flow can be extremely beneficial when it comes to parenting children. When flow is enhanced between parents and their children, the parents are more capable of thriving in their role as a parent. A parenting style that is positively oriented will also result in children that experience lower levels of stress and overall improve the child’s well-being.
Research Advances and Applications
Topical and methodological development has expanded the field of positive psychology. These advances have enabled the field of positive psychology to grow beyond its core theories and methods. Positive psychology is now a global area of study, with various national indices tracking citizens’ happiness ratings.
Research in positive psychology, well-being, eudaimonia and happiness, and the theories of Diener, Ryff, Keyes and Seligman cover a broad range of topics including “the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.” A meta-analysis on 49 studies in 2009 showed that Positive Psychology Interventions (PPI) produced improvements in well-being and lower depression levels, the PPIs studied included writing gratitude letters, learning optimistic thinking, replaying positive life experiences and socialising with others. In a later meta-analysis of 39 studies with 6,139 participants in 2012, the outcomes were positive. Three to six months after a PPI the effects for subjective well-being and psychological well-being were still significant. However the positive effect was weaker than in the 2009 meta analysis, the authors concluded that this was because they only used higher quality studies. The PPIs they considered included counting blessings, kindness practices, making personal goals, showing gratitude and focusing on personal strengths. Another review of PPIs published in 2018 found that over 78% of intervention studies were conducted in Western countries.
In the textbook Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness, authors Compton and Hoffman give the “Top Down Predictors” of well-being as high self esteem, optimism, self efficacy, a sense of meaning in life and positive relationships with others. The personality traits most associated with well being are extraversion, agreeability and low levels of neuroticism.
In a study published in 2020, students were enrolled in a positive psychology course that focused on improving happiness and well-being through teaching about positive psychology. The participants answer questions pertaining to the 5 categories known as PERMA. At the end of the semester those same students reported significantly higher scores in all categories (p <.001) minus engagement which was significant at p <0.05. One of the aims of this study was to make it rewarding for positive psychology interventions to stay in the participants lives. The authors stated:
“Not only do students learn and get credit, there is also a good chance that many will reap the benefits in what is most important to them—their health, happiness, and well-being.”
Quantitative methods in positive psychology include p-technique factor analysis, dynamic factor analysis, interindividual differences and structural equation modelling, spectral analysis and item response models, dynamic systems analysis, latent growth analysis, latent-class models, hierarchical linear modelling, measurement invariance, experimental methods, behaviour genetics, and integration of quantitative and qualitative approaches.
In a 2012 Journal of Positive Psychology article published by Grant J. Rich, the usage of qualitative methodology to study positive psychology is explored and considered. Author Rich addresses the popularity of quantitative methods in studying the empirical questions that positive psychology presents. He argues that there is an “overemphasis” on quantitative methods and suggests implementing qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews, observations, fieldwork, creative artwork, and focus groups. Rich states that qualitative approaches are valuable approaches to studying positive psychology. He writes that usage of qualitative methods will further promote the “flourishing of positive psychology” and encourages such practice.
Changing happiness levels through interventions is a further methodological advancement in the study of positive psychology. Enhancing happiness through behavioural interventions has been the focus of various academic and scientific psychological publications. Happiness-enhancing interventions include expressing kindness, gratitude, optimism, humility, awe, and mindfulness.
In 2005, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Kennon M. Sheldon, and David Schkade co-authored an academic paper published in the Review of General Psychology. In their research, they created a behavioural experiment using two 6-week interventions. One intervention studied was the performance of acts of kindness. The other was focused on gratitude and emphasized the counting of one’s blessings. The study participants who went through the behavioural interventions reported higher levels of happiness and well-being than those who did not participate in either intervention. The paper provides experimental support for the effect of gratitude and kindness on enhancing subjective well-being and happiness.
Further research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Rene Dickerhoof, Julia K. Boehm, and Kennon M. Sheldon, published in 2011 in the academic journal Emotion, found that the interventions of expressing optimism and expressing gratitude enhanced subjective well-being in participants who took part in the intervention for 8 months. The researchers concluded that interventions are “most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention.” The article provides support that when individuals enthusiastically take part in behavioural interventions, such as expression of optimism and gratitude, they may be engaging in an approach to increase happiness and subjective well-being.
In 2014, Elliott Kruse, Joseph Chancellor, Peter M. Ruberton, and Sonja Lyubomirsky published an academic article in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science. In their research, they study the interaction effects between gratitude and humility through behaviour interventions. The interventions they studied were writing a gratitude letter and writing a 14-day diary. In both interventions, Kruse et al. found that gratitude and humility are connected and are “mutually reinforcing.” The article also discusses how gratitude, and its associated humility, may lead to more positive emotional states and subjective well-being.
Researchers Melanie Rudd, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Jennifer Aaker conducted a series of experiments that showed a positive effect of awe on subjective well-being, publishing their results in 2012 in the academic journal Psychological Science. Their research found that individuals who felt awe also reported feeling higher availability of time, more preference for experiential expenditures than material expenditures, and greater life satisfaction. Experiences that heighten awe may lead to higher levels of life satisfaction and, in turn, higher levels of happiness and subjective well-being.
Mindfulness interventions may also increase happiness. In a Mindfulness article published in 2011 by Torbjörn Josefsson, Pernilla Larsman, Anders G. Broberg, and Lars-Gunnar Lundh, it was found that meditation improves subjective well-being for individuals who mindfully meditate. The researchers note that being mindful in meditation includes awareness and observation of one’s meditation practice, with non-reaction and non-judgemental sentiments during meditation.
National Indices of Happiness
The creation of various national indices of happiness have broadened and expanded the field of positive psychology to a global scale.
In a January 2000 academic article published in American Psychologist, psychologist Ed Diener proposed and argued for the creation of a national happiness index in the United States. Such an index would provide measurements of happiness, or subjective well-being, within the United States and across many other countries in the world. Diener argued that national indices would be helpful markers or indicators of population happiness, providing a sense of current ratings and a tracker of happiness across time. Diener proposed that the national index include various sub-measurements of subjective well-being, including “pleasant affect, unpleasant affect, life satisfaction, fulfillment, and more specific states such as stress, affection, trust, and joy.”
In 2012, the first World Happiness Report was published. The World Happiness Report was initiated by the UN General Assembly in June 2011, which passed the Bhutanese Resolution. The Bhutanese Resolution called for nations across the world to “give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development.” The data for the World Happiness Reports is collected in partnership with the Gallup World Poll’s life evaluations and annual happiness rankings. The World Happiness Report bases its national rankings on how happy constituents self-report and believe themselves to be.
The first World Happiness Report, published in 2012, is a 170-page report that details the state of world happiness, the causes of happiness and misery, policy implications from happiness reports, and three case studies of subjective well-being for:
Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness index;
The UK Office for National Statistics Experience; and
Happiness in the member countries within the OECD.
The World Happiness Report published in 2020 is the 8th publication in the series of reports. It is the first World Happiness Report to include happiness rankings of cities across the world, in addition to rankings of 156 countries. The city of Helsinki, Finland was reported as the city with the highest subjective well-being ranking, and the country of Finland was reported as the country with the highest subjective well-being ranking for the third year in a row. The 2020 report provides insights on happiness based on environmental conditions, social conditions, urban-rural happiness differentials, and sustainable development. It also provides overview and possible explanations for why Nordic countries have consistently ranked in the top ten happiest countries in the World Happiness Report since 2013. Possible explanations include Nordic countries’ high-quality government benefits and protections to its citizens, including welfare benefits and well-operated democratic institutions, as well as social connections, bonding, and trust.
Additional national well-being indices and reported statistics include the Gallup Global Emotions Report, Gallup Sharecare Well-Being Index, Global Happiness Council’s Global Happiness and Well-being Policy Report, Happy Planet Index, Indigo Wellness Index, OECD Better Life Index, and UN Human Development Reports.
Influences on other Academic Fields
Positive psychology has influenced a variety of other academic fields of study and scholarship. It has been applied to various other areas of scholarship, most notably organizational behaviour, education and psychiatry.
Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS)
Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS), also referred to as Positive Organisational Behaviour (POB), began as a direct application of positive psychology to the field of organisational behaviour. One of the first times the term was officially defined and published was in 2003, in the text Positive Organisational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline edited by University of Michigan Ross School of Business professors Kim S. Cameron, Jane E. Dutton, and Robert E. Quinn. In the first chapter of the text, Cameron, Dutton, and Quinn promote “the best of the human condition,” such as goodness, compassion, resilience, and positive human potential, as an organisational goal as important as financial organisational success. The goal of POS is to study the factors that create positive work experiences and successful, people-oriented organisational outcomes.
A large collection of POS research is contained in the 2011 volume The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organisational Scholarship, edited by University of Michigan Ross School of Business Professors Kim S. Cameron and Gretchen M. Spreitzer. This 1076-page volume encompasses nine sections and 79 chapters spanning various topics. Major topics include positive human resource practices, positive organisational practices, and positive leadership and change. Much of the volume expands upon and applies core concepts of positive psychology to the workplace context, covering areas such as positive individual attributes, positive emotions, strengths and virtues, and positive relationships. A further definition of POS, as written by editors Cameron and Spreitzer:
Positive organizational scholarship rigorously seeks to understand what represents the best of the human condition based on scholarly research and theory. Just as positive psychology focuses on exploring optimal individual psychological states rather than pathological ones, organizational scholarship focuses attention on the generative dynamics in organizations that lead to the development of human strength, foster resiliency in employees, enable healing and restoration, and cultivate extraordinary individual and organizational performance. POS emphasizes what elevates individuals and organizations (in addition to what challenges them), what goes right in organizations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in addition to what is objectionable), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult or arduous). (Cameron, Kim S.; Spreitzer, Gretchen M. (2011). “Chapter 1. Introduction: What is Positive about Positive Organizational Scholarship?”. In Spreitzer, Gretchen M.; Cameron, Kim S. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship.)
Positive psychology has influenced psychiatry by providing additional therapeutic and cognitive behaviour shifts, including well-being therapy, positive psychotherapy, and practicing an integration of positive psychology in therapeutic practice.
In an 2015 academic article published in Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, Mills and Kreutzer argue for the principles of positive psychology to be implemented to assist those recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI). They make the case that TBI rehabilitation practices rely on the betterment of the individual through engaging in everyday practices, a practice significantly related to tenets of positive psychology. Their proposal to connect positive psychology with TBI vocational rehabilitation (VR) also looks at happiness and its correlation with improvements in mental health, including increased confidence and productivity, as well as others. While the authors point out that empirical evidence for positive psychology is limited, they clarify that positive psychology’s focus on small successes, optimism and prosocial behaviour is promising for improvements in the social and emotional well-being of TBI patients.
The study of positive psychology has been translated into various popular media outlets, including books and films, and has been an influencing factor in the wellness industry.
There have been several popular psychology books written by positive psychologists for a general audience.
Ilona Boniwell, in her book Positive Psychology in a Nutshell, provided a summary of the current research. According to Boniwell, well-being is related to optimism, extraversion, social connections (i.e. close friendships), being married, having engaging work, religion or spirituality, leisure, good sleep and exercise, social class (through lifestyle differences and better coping methods) and subjective health (what you think about your health). Boniwell further writes that well-being is not related to age, physical attractiveness, money (once basic needs are met), gender (women are more often depressed but also more often joyful), educational level, having children (although they add meaning to life), moving to a sunnier climate, crime prevention, housing and objective health (what doctors say).
Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness, provides advice and guidance on how to improve happiness. According to The How of Happiness, individuals should create new habits, seek out new emotions, use variety and timing to prevent hedonic adaptation, and enlist others to motivate and support during the creation of those new habits. Lyubomirsky gives 12 happiness activities, including savouring life, learning to forgive, and living in the present.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is another popular book that shares positive psychology research findings for a general readership audience. Gilbert presents research suggesting that individuals are often poor at predicting what will make them happy in the future and that individuals are prone to misevaluating the causes of their happiness. He also notes that the subjectivity of subjective well-being and happiness often is the most difficult challenge to overcome in predicting future happiness, noting that our future selves may have different subjective perspectives on life than our current selves.
Coverage of positive psychology has entered the film industry. Similarly, films have provided the basis of new research within positive psychology.
Happy (2011 film) is a full-length documentary film covering overviewing the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience. It also highlights various case studies on happiness across diverse cultures and geographies. The film features interviews with notable positive psychologists and scholars, including Daniel Gilbert, Ed Diener, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
The Positive Psychology News website includes a section on annual Positive Psychology Movie Awards. The Positive Psychology Movie Awards ranks a short list of feature films of 2009, 2014, and annually between 2016 and 2018 that feature powerful messages of positive psychology. The rankings are according to the website’s author, Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D, who is a psychologist, coach, and education director of the VIA Institute on Character. The Positive Psychology Movie Awards presents separate awards for categories including: Best Positive Psychology Film, Award for Positive Relationships, Award for Meaning, Award for Achievement, Award for Mindfulness, Award for Happiness, Signature Strengths Use, among others.
Further research done on positive psychology as represented in feature films has been done in association with the VIA Institute. Contemporary and popular films that promote or represent character strengths are the basis for various academic articles.
The growing popularity and attention given to positive psychology research has influenced industry growth, development, and consumption of products and services meant to cater to wellness and well-being.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, as of 2018, the global wellness economy is valued at $4.5 trillion and the wellness industry represents 5.3% of global economic output. Key sectors of the wellness industry include workplace wellness, fitness and mind-body, personal care, and wellness lifestyle.
Highlighting happiness and well-being has been a strategy harnessed by various companies in their marketing strategies. Food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Pocky, whose motto is “Share happiness!”, emphasize happiness in their commercials, branding, and descriptions. CEOs at retail companies such as Zappos have profited by publishing books detailing their deliverance of happiness, while Amazon’s logo features a dimpled smile.
Positive psychology has been criticized in many different aspects from its conception continuing into the present day.
In 1988, psychologists Shelley E. Taylor and Jonathan D. Brown co-authored a Psychological Bulletin article that coined the phrase positive illusions. Positive illusions are the cognitive processes individuals engage in when self-aggrandising or self-enhancing. They are the unrealistically positive or self-affirming attitudes that individuals hold of themselves, their position, or their environment. In essence, positive illusions are attitudes of extreme optimism that endure even in the face of facts and real conditions. Taylor and Brown suggested that positive illusions protect individuals from negative feedback that they might receive, and this, in turn, preserves their psychological adaptation and subjective well-being. However, later research has found that engaging in positive illusions and related attitudes has led to psychological maladaptive conditions. These conditions include poorer social relationships, expressions of narcissism, and negative workplace outcomes, thus reducing the positive effects that positive illusions have on subjective well-being, overall happiness, and life satisfaction.
Kirk Schneider, editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, has said that positive psychology fails to explain past heinous behaviours such as those perpetrated by the Nazi party, Stalinist marches and Klan gatherings, to identify but a few. He also pointed to a body of research showing high positivity correlates with positive illusion, which effectively distorts reality. The extent of the downfall of high positivity or flourishing is one could become incapable of psychological growth, unable to self-reflect, and tend to hold racial biases. By contrast, negativity, sometimes evidenced in mild to moderate depression, is correlated with less distortion of reality. Therefore, Schneider argues, negativity might play an important role within the dynamics of human flourishing. To illustrate, conflict engagement and acknowledgement of appropriate negativity, including certain negative emotions like guilt, might better promote flourishing. Overall, Schneider provided perspective: “perhaps genuine happiness is not something you aim at, but is…a by-product of a life well lived – and a life well lived does not settle on the programmed or neatly calibrated.”
In 2003, Ian Sample, writing for The Guardian, noted that, “Positive psychologists also stand accused of burying their heads in the sand and ignoring that depressed, even merely unhappy people, have real problems that need dealing with.” He also quoted Steven Wolin, a clinical psychiatrist at George Washington University, as saying that the study of positive psychology is just a reiteration of older ways of thinking, and that there is not much scientific research to support the efficacy of this method. Gable responds to criticism on their Pollyanna view on the world by saying that they are just bringing a balance to a side of psychology that is glaringly understudied. To defend his point, Gable points to the imbalances favouring research into negative psychological well-being in cognitive psychology, health psychology, and social psychology.
Martin Jack has also maintained that positive psychology is not unique in its optimistic approach to looking at optimal emotional well-being, stating that other forms of psychology, such as counselling and educational psychology, are also interested in positive human fulfilment. He goes on to mention that, while positive psychology has pushed for schools to be more student-centred and able to foster positive self-images in children, he worries that a lack of focus on self-control may prevent children from making full contributions to society. If positive psychology is not implemented correctly, it can cause more harm than good. This is the case, for example, when interventions in school are coercive (in the sense of being imposed on everyone without regard for the individual child’s reason for negativity) and fail to take each student’s context into account.
Role of Negativity
Barbara S. Held, a professor at Bowdoin College, argued that while positive psychology makes contributions to the field of psychology, it has its faults. She offered insight into topics including the negative side effects of positive psychology, negativity within the positive psychology movement, and the current division in the field of psychology caused by differing opinions of psychologists on positive psychology. In addition, she noted the movement’s lack of consistency regarding the role of negativity. She also raised issues with the simplistic approach taken by some psychologists in the application of positive psychology. A “one size fits all” approach is arguably not beneficial to the advancement of the field of positive psychology; she suggested a need for individual differences to be incorporated into its application. By teaching young people that being confident and optimistic leads to success, when they are unsuccessful they will begin to believe it is because they are insecure or pessimistic. This could lead them to believe that any negative internal thought or feeling they may experience is damaging to their happiness and should be steered clear of completely.
A recent critical response to the field of positive psychology is that around toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the phenomenon in which individuals do not fully acknowledge, process, or manage the entire spectrum of human emotion, including anger and sadness. This genre of criticism against positive psychology argues that the field of positive psychology places too much importance on “upbeat thinking, while shunting challenging and difficult experiences to the side.” Individuals who engage in a constant chase for positive experiences or states of high subjective well-being may be inadvertently stigmatizing negative emotional conditions, such as depression, or may be suppressing natural emotional responses, such as sadness, regret, or stress. Furthermore, by not allowing negative emotional states to be experienced, or by suppressing and hiding negative emotional responses, individuals may experience harmful physical, cardiovascular and respiratory consequences. Proponents of combating toxic positivity advocate allowing oneself to accept and fully experience negative emotional states.
Methodological and Philosophical Critiques
Richard Lazarus, who was well known in psychology for his Cognitive-Motivational-Relational theory of emotions, has thoroughly critiqued positive psychology’s methodological and philosophical components. He holds that giving more detail and insight into the positive is not bad, but not at the expense of the negative aspect because the two (positive and negative) are inseparable. The first methodological issue noted is positive psychology’s use of correlational and cross-sectional research designs to indicate causality between the movement’s ideas and healthy lives; there could be other factors not researched and time differences that account for healthier lives that the researchers do not account for. Secondly, he considers that emotions cannot be categorised dichotomously into positive and negative; by nature, emotions are subjective and rich in social/relational meaning. Additionally, he claims that emotions are fluid, meaning that the context they appear in changes over time. He states that “all emotions have the potential of being either one or the other, or both, on different occasions, and even on the same occasion when an emotion is experienced by different persons” The third issue is the neglect of individual differences in most social science research. Many research designs focus on the statistical significance of the groups while overlooking differences among individuals. Lazarus’s final methodological complaint is social science researchers’ tendency to not adequately define and measure emotions. Most assessments are quick checklists and do not provide adequate debriefing. Many researchers do not differentiate between fluid emotional states and relatively stable personality traits.
Lazarus further holds that positive psychology claims to be new and innovative although the majority of research on stress and coping theory make much of the same claims as positive psychology. The movement attempts to uplift and reinforce the positive aspects of one’s life, but everyone in life experiences stress and hardship. Coping through these events should not be looked at as adapting to failures, but should be regarded as successfully navigating stress, but the movement doesn’t hold that perspective.
The US Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Programme
The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) programme was established in 2008 by then-Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General George W. Casey, Jr., in an effort to address the increasing rates of drug abuse, family violence, PTSD, and suicide among soldiers. The Army contracted with Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania to supply a program closely based on the centre’s Penn Resiliency Programme, which was designed for 10- to 14-year-old children. Although Seligman proposed starting with a small-scale pilot-test, General Casey insisted on immediately rolling out the CSF to the entire Army. Interviewed for the journal Monitor on Psychology of the American Psychological Association, Seligman said that “This is the largest study—1.1 million soldiers—psychology has ever been involved in.” According to journalist Jesse Singal, “It would become one of the largest mental-health interventions geared at a single population in the history of humanity, and possibly the most expensive.”
Some psychologists have criticized the CSF for various reasons. Nicholas J.L. Brown wrote that “The idea that techniques that have demonstrated, at best, marginal effects in reducing depressive symptoms in school-age children could also prevent the onset of a condition that is associated with some of the most extreme situations with which humans can be confronted is a remarkable one that does not seem to be backed up by empirical evidence.” Stephen Soldz of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis cited Seligman’s acknowledgment that the CSF is a gigantic study rather than a program based on proven techniques, and questioned the ethics of requiring soldiers to participate in research without informed consent. Soldz also criticised the CSF training for trying to build up-beat attitudes toward combat: “Might soldiers who have been trained to resiliently view combat as a growth opportunity be more likely to ignore or under-estimate real dangers, thereby placing themselves, their comrades, or civilians at heightened risk of harm?”
In 2021 the Chronicle of Higher Education carried a debate between Singal and Seligman about whether, with the CSF well into its second decade, there was any solid evidence of its effectiveness. Singal cited studies that, he said, failed to find any measurable benefits in such positive psychology techniques, and he criticized the Army’s own reports as methodologically unsound and lacking peer review. Seligman said that Singal had misinterpreted the studies and ignored the Army’s positive feedback from soldiers, one of whom told Seligman that “if I had had this training years ago, it would have saved my marriage.”
Today, over 10% of the global population suffers from mental health problems. Three decades of collaboration between scientists and Buddhist scholars have revealed techniques that allow us to develop our mental well-being and improve the impact we have on our planet.
Part of the Dispatches documentary series (see below).
Ade Adepitan, Daniel Bogado and former hospital patients gain access to Mexico’s psychiatric institutions to secretly film the horrific and inhumane conditions endured by thousands of men and women.
Dispatches is a British current affairs documentary programme on Channel 4, first broadcast on 30 October 1987. The programme covers issues about British society, politics, health, religion, international current affairs and the environment, and often features a mole inside organisations under journalistic investigation.
It is argued that this is the most important aspect of good mental well-being, as it enables individuals to feel part of their community or their own support group, knowing that they have somewhere to turn in times of need and that they are able to help others as well.
Making new friends into adulthood helps individuals to feel wanted and liked and this is beneficial for their confidence and self-esteem.
Stating both mentally and physically active helps individuals to remain well in both of these areas, with the link between good mental and good physical health being clearly established.
Individuals who are physically well may be less likely to develop mental health issues related to long-term illness, and the benefits of exercise helps boost the release of ‘happy hormones’ such as serotonin, which enhance mood and make individuals feel good.
Continuing to Learn
It is recommended that people never stop learning, and this should continue even into late adulthood.
Learning a new skill or information about a new subject is not only useful for ongoing cognitive functioning but it can help people to remain social as well, such as by attending a college course or a book club where there are lots of opportunities to connect with other people.
Giving to Others
Any form of giving to other people is mutually beneficial; that is to say that the person giving to others feels good about themselves and the person receiving what is given fells good as well.
Giving to others may mean being active in the community, such as doing volunteer work, or it can mean doing charity events, such as sponsored walks or collecting items for a local food bank.
mindfulness means that a person is able to live in the present moment without worrying about what is coming in the future or what has happened in the past.
It enables people to focus solely on what is happening in their current surroundings and is thought to be an excellent way of reducing stress and anxiety, which can be the foundation of some forms of mental ill health.
Being Able to Express Emotions
Most people will have heard the saying that it is better to speak up about something than to keep things ‘bottled up’.
When people are unable to express their emotions effectively, this can mean that they eventually become overwhelmed by their feelings, and this can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and other difficulties that may prevent them from going about their daily activities.
Being Able to Cope with Stress
The concept of resilience is closely linked to being able to cope with stress.
Resilience enables individuals to react positively in the face of adversity and to find a way of moving forwards that is not detrimental to their mental health.
Being Adaptable in Times of Change
Resilience is also linked to being able to cope successfully when there are changes in life.
This can be a minor change such as having to move to a different office at work, or a major change like moving house, losing a loved one, or being diagnosed with a serious illness.
Being Confident and Having Good Self-Esteem
Being confident and having a high level of self-esteem helps individuals to feel good about themselves. which enables them to connect with others, make positive decisions, and be resilient when times become challenging.
Being productive within a community, family, or workplace helps individuals to feel good about themselves, increases their self-esteem, and can help them to connect with others as well.
It also gives individuals a sense of achievement. which helps increase confidence and gives individuals a positive outlook for the future.
You must be logged in to post a comment.