Defining well-being

Read quite an interesting article this morning, but more than the article, and the results of the article, I wanted to put down the process of getting to that data.

But blah de blah, first things first, here’s the article. Get a midlife (By Patricia Cohen in The NY Times). The first line sums up what the article is trying to say and all further arguments that it brings in,

YOU may be surprised to learn that when researchers asked people over 65 to pick the age they would most like to return to, the majority bypassed the wild and wrinkle-less pastures of their teens, 20s and 30s, and chose their 40s.

But what I was very interested in, is how they went about defining well-being, while on the process of getting to well-being at 40.

The problem with the physical inventory of middle age, though, is that it inevitably emphasizes loss — the end of fertility, decreased stamina, the absence of youth. Middle age begins, one cultural critic declared, the moment you think of yourself as “not young.” The approach is the same as that taken by physicians and psychologists, who have defined wellness and happiness in terms of what was missing: health was an absence of illness; a well-adjusted psyche meant an absence of depression and dysfunction.

The most recent research on middle age, by contrast, has looked at gains as well as deficits.

This is where it gets interesting. Carol Ryff, the director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, developed a list of questions to measure well-being and divided them into six broad categories.

  1. Personal growth (having new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself);
  2. Autonomy (having confidence in your opinions even if they are contrary to the general consensus);
  3. Supportive social relationships;
  4. Self-regard (liking most aspects of your personality);
  5. Control of your life; and
  6. A sense of purpose.

Quite succinct, I felt.

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