Understanding wellbeing within a policy relevant framework

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Policy makers worldwide are increasingly realising the importance of wellbeing. Maintaining mental wellbeing is important for positive life outcomes, such as relationships, employment, and physical health. It can also act as a buffer against the negative effects of stress. In this thesis, I am interested in the individual differences that determine why some individuals have better wellbeing and respond better to wellbeing interventions than others. In addition, I investigate the close relationship between social connections and wellbeing. I predominately concentrate on late adolescence and emerging adulthood because this is a critical but underexplored developmental period for mental health. Three broad conclusions can be drawn from the projects in this thesis. Firstly, I find that social connections are often positively associated, such as providing social support, but they can also be negatively associated with wellbeing, such as through negative social comparisons. Tapping into how individuals socially interact and connect with others could be an important wellbeing improving intervention, and further research is needed here to disentangle mechanisms and direction of causality. My second conclusion is that tackling inequality should be of high priority for policy makers as inequality contributes to lower population level wellbeing levels. Finally, my findings suggest that one of the ways to ensure we do not increase existing inequalities when we make policies is to have a greater focus on personalised interventions and policies. Environments do not just passively happen to us – even environmental measures such as social support are mediated by genetics. Therefore, one-size-fits-all policies should be replaced with more personalised approaches. Overall, my projects add to the evidence base that can now be collated with other research outputs to produce policy recommendations. My thesis emphasises the need for evidence based on a range of methodologies to give us the most comprehensive view of wellbeing.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorClaire M A Haworth (Supervisor) & Oliver S Davis (Supervisor)

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