Social Indicators Research

, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 681-698

First online:

The Concept, Dimensions and Methods of Assessment of Human Well-Being within a Socioecological Context: A Literature Review

  • Megan F. KingAffiliated withINPE-Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (DSR/OBT) Email author 
  • , Vivian F. RenóAffiliated withINPE-Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (DSR/OBT)
  • , Evlyn M. L. M. NovoAffiliated withINPE-Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (DSR/OBT)

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The concept of well-being has evolved over the past several decades as research has continued to reveal its multidimensional, dynamic, person-specific and culture-specific nature. Most recently, the ecological embeddedness of well-being has also gained recognition, and this development of the concept demands that we explore and identify new conceptual frameworks and appropriate methodological approaches towards the assessment of quality of life within a socioecological context. This paper offers a review of seminal and current research in the fields of social indicators, human development, ecological economics, and natural resources management, with the aim of examining the concept and the various methodologies designed to assess both the objective and subjective components and the multiple dimensions that comprise well-being. We also present some methodological approaches that have the capacity to account for the role of ecosystem services, considering several studies of rural populations whose well-being depends on the flow of ecosystem services, highlighting the participatory methods these studies employed to identify and assess locally relevant well-being indicators, and addressing some of the challenges inherent in such methods. We conclude with an appraisal of what we regard as the most appropriate methodological approach for measuring human well-being in the socioecological context.


Well-being Quality of life Socioecological system Millennium ecosystem assessment Participatory methods Indicators