How to measure mental wellbeing - Introduction

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What is mental wellbeing?

Mental health consists of both mental health problems (mental ill-health) and mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing is made up of happiness and life-satisfaction (hedonic features) and psychological functioning, good relationships with each other and self-acceptance (eudaimonic features).

Mental wellbeing is one aspect of overall wellbeing (others include physical and social wellbeing).

A fuller discussion of definitions of mental wellbeing, mental health problems and mental health are available in NHS Health Scotland's Mental Health Improvement Terminology and Working Understandings paper [external site].

Why measure mental wellbeing?

Historically there has been an emphasis on reducing the burden of ill-health. Measurement and monitoring of mental health has often been limited to measures of mental ill-health. Whilst this is important, measuring mental wellbeing is equally important as an absence of mental health problems does not necessarily imply good mental wellbeing.

Benefits of measuring mental wellbeing

There are many benefits to understanding more about the mental wellbeing of individuals, groups and communities. It can help to:

  • improve local planning by establishing and monitoring local mental health profiles
  • prioritise interventions that appear to be most effective in improving mental wellbeing
  • support the case for investing resources in mental health improvement
  • evaluate the impact of a project or service on people's lives.