Well-Being and Beyond
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Well-Being and Beyond

Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse

Edited by Timo J. Hämäläinen and Juliet Michaelson

This book will broaden the public and policy discourse on the importance of well-being by examining psychological, social, environmental, economic, organizational, institutional and political determinants of individual well-being.
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Chapter 2: In search of coherence: sketching a theory of sustainable well-being

Timo J. Hämäläinen


A new, more holistic framework of human well-being is urgently needed. The growing affluence, freedoms and market orientation of industrialized societies has fundamentally changed the nature of their citizens' everyday well-being. Today, only a small minority of them suffer from absolute material deprivation problems, while the majority's basic needs are fairly well met. The post-war welfare state policies have more or less reached their original Beveridgian goals of eradicating 'Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness' (Giddens 2007). However, this does not mean that the vast majority of people are happy and feeling well. Social inequalities are rising again, and a growing number of people suffer from mental health problems. In the United States, for example, only one-fifth of the people are truly flourishing, having their higher social and psychological needs well satisfied (Keyes 2005). Changes in individual opportunities, everyday life and living environments have created new challenges to well-being which are still poorly understood by policy makers, media and citizens. The public well-being discourse tends to be framed in the old deprivation framework, which has little to say about these new challenges. In the field of health care, for instance, a few nations have recently gone through an 'epidemiological transition', a historical change in the cause of death and illness from acute and infectious to chronic and modifiable lifestyle causes (Keyes 2007, p. 96).

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