Discourse on wellbeing in research and practice

Vincent La Placa, Allan McNaught, Anneyce Knight


The aim of this article is to consider debates around the contested nature of concepts of wellbeing in health and social science research and practice, given that government policy discourse centres on the importance of wellbeing as a tool for making policy and evaluating outcomes. It draws attention to the work of McNaught (2011). He has developed a definitional framework of wellbeing, in which wellbeing is perceived to be a macro concept or area of study concerned with the objective and subjective assessment of wellbeing as a desirable human state. The framework broadens wellbeing to a range of different domains beyond individual subjectivity, which has been the traditional focus of concern, and extracts it from customary affiliations with health to incorporate the family, community and society as a whole. The framework reflects the conceptual complexity of ‘wellbeing’ and highlights its dependency upon a range of social, economic and environmental forces that provide the resources and the contexts for the generation and maintenance of wellbeing at all levels of society. The article argues that the framework provides a paradigm that facilitates further development and systemisation of research and knowledge in the field of wellbeing. Firstly, the framework has the capacity to bring some clarity, inclusiveness and holism to research and practice. Secondly, it is useful as a tool to enhance theoretical frameworks and to guide the design and development of both health and wellbeing interventions. Thirdly, it provides the philosophical underpinnings for wellbeing policy development.


wellbeing, definitional framework, holistic research, theoretical framework, policy development, well-being

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