#BeeWell Blog: The wellbeing umbrella: how do the different wellbeing domains in the #BeeWell survey relate to one another?

#BeeWell Blog: The wellbeing umbrella: how do the different wellbeing domains in the #BeeWell survey relate to one another?

The #BeeWell survey is comprehensive and – even though it only takes young people around 20 minutes to  complete – it covers a lot of different areas of life and wellbeing. It’s said that “we treasure what we measure”, and so  to make young people’s wellbeing everybody’s business, we need to  accurately and effectively measure it. For this, we want to make sure that what we are asking is accessible to young people, reflects what they think, but also reflects what previous academic and theoretical evidence says is important.

The #BeeWell survey in Greater Manchester was co-created with over 150 young people, with a series of workshops taking place across 15 pathfinder schools to ask:

(1) what does wellbeing mean to you?

(2) what factors influence your wellbeing?

The first of these questions is what informs the three main wellbeing domains of the survey, covering ‘Meaning, Purpose and Control’, ‘Understanding Yourself’, and ‘Emotions’. Each of the domains then includes a number of ‘sub-domains’, for example, the ‘Meaning, Purpose, and Control’ domain consists of sub-domains measuring Autonomy, Life Satisfaction, and Optimism. In collaboration with a Questionnaire Advisory Group, a scale has been chosen for each of these on the basis of existing “psychometric validity”, that is, do the questions asked in that scale really capture an accurate sense of the concept?

In the academic world, however, which questions best capture a sense of wellbeing as a whole is hotly contested. While specific questions and scales for specific sub-domains may be psychometrically valid, how can we extend this to an overarching idea of wellbeing?

Depending on what camp of wellbeing research you fall into, you might subscribe to the view that wellbeing consists of domains related to pleasure and mood (‘hedonic wellbeing’) or related to flourishing and functioning (‘eudemonic wellbeing’). And while some people think these are completely separate categories, some think they are all basically the same.

How do some of the domains we’ve selected for the #BeeWell survey fit into these categories? Our new paper maps how the questions on Autonomy, Self-Esteem, Positive Relationships with friends, and Optimism relate to the questions on Life Satisfaction, Positive Affect, and Negative Affect and whether these fall into two different hedonic and eudemonic camps or whether they are all under one big fuzzy overarching umbrella of wellbeing.

What do we find? Considering the responses to the #BeeWell survey in Greater Manchester in 2021, it’s closer to the latter – a lot of the divisions that academics make around whether wellbeing is ‘hedonic’ or ‘eudemonic’ don’t fit, and in fact, all the above sub-domains relate to one another in very similar ways (rather than, for example, the three ‘hedonic’ sub-domains of life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect showing much closer links than, say, life satisfaction and self-esteem). So, it’s time for academics to think of different ways of making these distinctions rather than based on pleasure and mood versus flourishing and functioning – or indeed, to consider whether these distinctions are necessary at all.

We might want to consider wellbeing sub-domains only at a granular level (that is, thinking of life satisfaction as life satisfaction and that’s that) or in this mixed, overarching way (a construct of general wellbeing) but ultimately not imposing a hedonic-eudemonic divide in the middle of the two. Rather than mapping onto ‘hedonic’ or ‘eudemonic’ wellbeing specifically, each question in the #BeeWell surveyed considered here taps into a common core of wellbeing. How we define wellbeing can influence how new measures are made or which questions and scales are used in future analysis – so that, ultimately, we can continue to effectively measure and treasure our young people’s wellbeing.

This blog is based on: Khanna, D., Black, L., Panayiotou, M. et al. Conceptualising and Measuring Adolescents’ Hedonic and Eudemonic Wellbeing: Discriminant Validity and Dimensionality Concerns.Child Ind Res 17, 551–579 (2024).