Understanding wellbeing

What is ‘wellbeing’ and how do our understandings of it differ?

The costs of mental ill-health in Australia are estimated at $60 billion per year, giving our governments every reason to prioritise public wellbeing as a policy goal. But the way governments understand ‘wellbeing’ is crucial, as that understanding will shape what they do (or don’t do) about it.

Supported by a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant, Flinders Senior Researcher Dr Matthew Fisher, Associate Professor Tamara Mackean and Mr Roland Wilson are conducting research with the aim of creating a ‘Theories of Wellbeing Framework’ to identify the differing theories of wellbeing available and assess their value for governments seeking to promote wellbeing.

It is hoped this research will contribute to shared understandings between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples about human wellbeing. Rather than focusing on individual psychology or behaviour, Indigenous cultures and peoples often define wellbeing as vested in relationships, within communities and with the natural world. These insights may hold important lessons for governments seeking to promote wellbeing.

We urgently require public policy action to promote wellbeing equitably, and this research has broad potential to benefit governments and the public by advancing understanding of what wellbeing is and how we can create conditions to promote it.

A growing government interest in wellbeing is welcome but may produce little real benefit if the understanding of wellbeing is too limited.


Project title: Understanding Indigenous and non-Indigenous theories of wellbeing and assessing their suitability for public policy to promote wellbeing.

Lead researcher: Dr Matt Fisher

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