Well-being and Humanities Education in Singapore , pp. 4 of 11

Determinants of Well-being

Many of these notions focus on an inner or individual sense of well-being. Researchers (e.g., Boarini, R. et al., 2012), refer to this as subjective well-being, which can be measured through evaluative measures (e.g., personal cognitive judgments about life satisfaction and well-being) and affective measures (e.g., experience of positive or negative feelings). However, well-being is not just a matter of one’s inner state; there are social, economic, and political conditions that contribute to or shape well-being.  For example, poverty, health problems, gender inequality, and unequal access to education each affect well-being.

There are several studies that examine the social and economic conditions that support individual and societal well-being (e.g., Gallup World Poll, 2006; Happy Planet Index Report, 2012; Human Development Report, 2013; World Happiness Report, 2013). Generally, there is a positive relationship between income levels, human development, and well-being (De Mel, 2014). However, other researchers, such as Boarini, R. et al. (2012), find that health, personal security, and freedom have a greater impact on a sense of well-being than economic factors. Diener, et al. (2010) found that income and living in an economically developed nation affect evaluations of well-being but that social psychological prosperity, such as whether or not people feel respected, whether they have others they can count on, and the degree of control they have over their time, is also important for well-being. Based on these findings they argue that societies must pay careful attention not only to economic conditions but to social and psychological variables as well.

Looking at well-being in ASEAN countries, Yuen & Chu (2013) found that generally a high GDP per capita improved quality of life and resulted in higher rankings of subjective well-being and happiness. However, higher per capita GDP is usually associated with living in a more competitive society which tends to reduce experienced well-being in societies such as Singapore. They also highlight that being poor does not necessarily mean being unhappy because people tend to draw on traditional culture and religion as resources. They use these findings to argue that ASEAN nations should not solely promote economic growth at the expense of people’s cultures and that ASEAN should do more to retain and protect the diverse cultures and traditions of the region to enhance well-being.

In their review of the literature on the determinants of well-being, Boarini, R. et al. (2012) highlight the following domains:

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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