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A new meta-analysis on existing well-being interventions suggests we should not look if individuals got ‘ happier’, but in how far well-being interventions generally helps individuals function better. The study finds interventions can help individuals grow stronger, especially in dealing with external challenges and in appreciating themselves more.

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The concept of positive functioning as a human being, also called eudaemonic well-being, can be traced back to the philosophers of the ancient Greeks. Most influential hereby were the writings of Aristotle on having a life that is both good and fulfilling. These perspectives incorporate similar and complementary criteria of positive psychological well-being. They emphasize an optimistic outlook on life, underlining the importance of personal growth and development.

A scale to test well-being interventions

Psychologists used a scale of psychological well-being (Ryff's Scales of Psychological Well-Being) to analyse in how far existing well-being interventions, like cognitive behavioural therapy, life coaching, meditation and mindfulness programmes, are effective in enhancing positive human functioning. The model distinguishes six dimensions of positive psychological well-being: Self-Acceptance, Positive Relations with Others, Autonomy, Environmental Mastery, Purpose in Life, and Personal Growth. To what extent do existing interventions in one form or another improve these six dimensions, and how different is the efficacy of these intervention programmes?

Summarising experimental studies

The authors summarised 86 experimental studies and evaluated whether a specific intervention approach improves individual positive functioning based on the six dimensions of psychological well-being. Results show that generally psychological intervention programmes can strongly improve eudaemonic wellbeing and help individuals functioning better.

They see the strongest influence with integral programmes that link directly to the model of psychological well-being. They observe the strongest effects for Environmental Mastery, Personal Growth, and Self-Acceptance. The weakest influence was on Autonomy and Positive Relations with Others.

‘Overall, our result is an important contribution to the well-being literature in that it shows, more convincing than previous meta-analyses that psychological eudaemonic well-being (functioning better) can be enhanced by targeted intervention programmes.’

Publication details

Dirk van Dierendonck (Erasmus University) and Hodar Lam (University of Amsterdam), 'Interventions to enhance eudaemonic psychological well-being: A meta-analytic review with Ryff's Scales of Psychological Well-being', In: Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being