Research on Subjective Wellbeing

Research on Subjective Wellbeing

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7452-1.ch001

Abstract

This chapter posits that based on a careful review of extant literature, the quest to identify the factors that assist caregivers in sustaining or elevating their subjective wellbeing while providing comfort and support to care recipients is critical. In this sense, discussion in this chapter provides a rationale for the design and focus of research reported in this book, which focuses on the positive factors that elevate subjective wellbeing of informal caregivers. Thus, this chapter explores various research findings and theoretical discussion on associations between subjective wellbeing and fundamental characteristics of mental and psychical wellness of those providing care on an informal basis. These include the accentuation of self-efficacy and spirituality. It also includes the extent to which an informal caregiver receives support from others to enhance a sense of belonging to community. In addition, it further includes personal resilience of the caregiver as well as opportunities to participate in leisure activities and community involvement.
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Subjective Wellbeing

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstances but by our disposition. Martha Washington (1789)

Since the 1800s, philosophers, scholars, and religious leaders alike have been curious about the concept of subjective wellbeing, though they had not termed the concept as such. These individuals concentrated on the emotional, mental, and physical pleasures and pains people experience. Notable philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, whose central influence was on moral philosophy and the theory of utilitarianism, also wrote on the subject of wellbeing and stated that the existence of pleasure and the lack of pain are essential components of living (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.).

Empirical research into subjective wellbeing began early in the 20th century. Fluegel conducted one of the first relevant studies in 1925 on subjective wellbeing utilizing quantitative methods. He assessed the moods of nine respondents (five females and four males) by asking them to diary their emotional events. He focused on their recordings of pleasure and pain, and then quantified their reactions across moments in time. His findings reflected that individuals were more active and energetic when their moods were elevated (Fluegel, 1925, pp. 345-346). His study was further significant as it precluded modern experience sampling approaches on subjective wellbeing (Diener, Oishi, & Lucas, 2003).

Shortly after World War II, researchers began using short and simple questionnaires to ask individuals about their happiness levels and life satisfaction. These researchers wanted to reproduce representative samples of varying nationalities and chose respondents based on certain demographic criteria. The respondents were asked basic questions and were given simple response choices. Even though the questionnaires used were brief, they yielded important findings. A case in point is a 1969 study conducted by social psychologist, Norman Bradburn. The study questionnaire, albeit brief, had an influential impact across various social research disciplines. One of the more germane findings in the study was the revelation that persons with substantial family responsibilities and low income purported decreased levels of wellbeing (Bradburn, 1969).

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