Social Indicators Research

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 211–234 | Cite as

Models of well-being and ill-being

  • Bruce Headey
  • Elsie Holmstrom
  • Alexander Wearing


The purpose of this paper is to present models of well-being and ill-being which integrate the effects of different types of independent variables. Using the more powerful techniques provided by the LISREL software, the paper replicates and extends analysis previously reported in SIR (Headey, Holmstrom and Wearing, 1984a).

A preliminary issue is whether well-being and ill-being constitute different dimensions or whether they are polar opposites. Factor analytic evidence, derived from two waves of an Australian panel study (1981, 1983) with samples of 942 and 878 respectively, confirms that indicators of well-being and ill-being form distinct, although not orthogonal dimensions.

In the models of well-being and ill-being estimated from the panel data, we attempt to integrate research dealing with the impact of social background, personality, social networks and satisfaction with particular domains of life. Two key personality traits which influence both well-being and ill-being are self-esteem and personal competence. Social background (SES) has greater influence on ill-being than well-being. Having a well-developed social network, on the other hand, contributes more to enhancement of well-being than relief of ill-being. This is largely because a rich social network is associated with satisfaction with leisure, friends and marriage, which themselves are the life domains most closely connected to feelings of well-being. By contrast, the domain of health is relatively closely associated with ill-being.

The conclusion discusses public policy implications of the finding that well-being and ill-being have different correlates and causes. Conventional welfare policies are designed to relieve ill-being. Quite different policies (“positive welfare” policies) are required to enhance well-being.


Social Network Personality Trait Panel Data Polar Opposite Powerful Technique 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alwin, E. F., and A. M. Hauser: 1975, ‘The composition of effects in path analysis’, American Sociological Review 40, pp. 37–47.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, F. M., and R. D. Inglehart: 1979, ‘The structure of psychological well-being in nine western societies’, Social Indicators Research 6, pp. 73–90.Google Scholar
  3. Andrews, F. M., and A. C. McKennell: 1980a, ‘Measures of self-reported well-being’, Social Indicators Research 8, pp. 127–156.Google Scholar
  4. Andrews, F. M., and A. C. McKennell: 1980b, ‘Models of cognition and affect in perceptions of well-being’, Social Indicators Research 8, pp. 257–298.Google Scholar
  5. Andrews, F. M., and S. B. Withey: 1976, Social Indicators of Well-Being (Plenum, New York).Google Scholar
  6. Atkinson, T.: 1982, ‘The stability and validity of QOL measures’, Social Indicators Research 8, pp. 113–132.Google Scholar
  7. Block, J.: 1981, ‘Some enduring and consequential structures of personality’, in: A. I. Rabin (ed.), Further Explorations in Personality (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar
  8. Block, M., and A. Zautra: 1981, ‘Satisfaction and distress in a community: A test of the effect of life events’, American Journal of Community Psychology 9, pp. 165–180.Google Scholar
  9. Bradburn, N. M.: 1969, The Structure of Psychological Well-Being (Aldine, Chicago).Google Scholar
  10. Bradburn, N. M., and D. Caplovitz: 1965, Reports on Happiness (Aldine, Chicago).Google Scholar
  11. Brickman, P. D., D. Coates, and R. Janoff-Bulman: 1978, ‘Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36, pp. 917–927.Google Scholar
  12. Brim, O. G., and J. Kagan (eds.): 1980, Constancy and Change in Human Development (Harvard University Press, Cambridge).Google Scholar
  13. Campbell, A.: 1981, The Sense of Well-Being in America (McGraw-Hill, New York).Google Scholar
  14. Campbell, A., P. E. Converse, and W. L. Rodgers: 1976, The Quality of American Life (Sage, New York).Google Scholar
  15. Caplan, G.: 1974, Support Systems and Community Mental Health (Behavioural Publications, New York).Google Scholar
  16. Carley, M.: 1981, Social Measurement and Social Indicators (Allen and Unwin, London).Google Scholar
  17. Costa, P. T., and R. R. McGrae: 1980, ‘Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, pp. 668–678.Google Scholar
  18. Crandall, R.: 1973, ‘The measurement of self-esteem and related constructs’, in: J. P. Robinson and P. R. Shaver (eds.), Measures of social psychological attitudes (ISR, Ann Arbor).Google Scholar
  19. Diener, E.: 1984, ‘Subjective well-being’, Psychological Bulletin 95, pp. 542–575.Google Scholar
  20. Diener, E. and R. A. Emmons: 1985, ‘The independence of positive and negative affect’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 47, pp. 1105–1117.Google Scholar
  21. Duncan, O. D.: 1975, Introduction to Structural Equation Models (Academic Press, New York).Google Scholar
  22. Easterlin, R. A.: 1973, ‘Does money buy happiness?’, Public Interest 30, pp. 3–10.Google Scholar
  23. Encel, S. et al.: 1975, The Art of Anticipation (Robertson, London), pp. 178–182.Google Scholar
  24. Eysenck, H. J., and S. B. G. Eysenck: 1964, Manual of the Eysenck Personality Inventory (Stoughton, London).Google Scholar
  25. Eysenck, H. J., and S. B. G. Eysenck: 1977, Personality Structure and Measurement (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London).Google Scholar
  26. Fox, J.: 1984, ‘Effects analysis in structural equations models’, Sociological Methods and Research 9, pp. 3–28.Google Scholar
  27. Grichting, W. L.: 1983, ‘Domain, scope and degree of happiness’, British Journal of Social Psychology 22, pp. 247–260.Google Scholar
  28. Gurin, P. et al.: 1960, Americans View Their Mental Health (Basic Books, New York).Google Scholar
  29. Gurin, P. et al.: 1969, ‘Internal-external control in the motivational dynamics of Negro youth’, Journal of Social Issues 25, pp. 29–53.Google Scholar
  30. Hall, J.: 1976, Subjective Measures of Quality of Life in Britain: 1971 to 1975 (HMSO, Social Trends No. 7, London).Google Scholar
  31. Headey, B. W.: 1981, ‘The quality of life in Australia’, Social Indicators Research 9, pp. 155–182.Google Scholar
  32. Headey, B. W., E. L. Holmstrom, and A. J. Wearing: 1984a, ‘Well-being and ill-being: Difference dimensions?’, Social Indicators Research 14, pp. 115–139.Google Scholar
  33. Headey, B. W., E. L. Holmstrom, and A. J. Wearing: 1984b, ‘The impact of life events and changes in domain satisfactions on well-being’, Social Indicators Research 15, pp. 203–227.Google Scholar
  34. Headey, B. W., and A. J. Wearing: 1981, Australians' Priorities, Satisfactions and Well-Being (DCWS & University of Melbourne, Melbourne).Google Scholar
  35. Henderson, S., D. G. Byrne, and P. Duncan-Jones: 1981, Neurosis and the Social Environment (Academic Press, Sydney).Google Scholar
  36. Hoelter, J. W.: 1983, ‘The analysis of covariance structures’, Sociological Methods and Research 11, pp. 325–344.Google Scholar
  37. Holahan, C. J., and R. H. Moos: 1983, ‘The quality of social support’, British Journal of Clinical Psychology 22, pp. 157–162.Google Scholar
  38. Hollingshead, F. C. and Redlich: 1958, Social Class and Mental Illness (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar
  39. Jackson, D. N., and S. V. Paunonen: 1980, ‘Personality structure and assessment’, Annual Review of Psychology 31, pp. 503–552.Google Scholar
  40. Jahoda, M.: 1958, Current Concepts of Positive Mental Health (Basic Books, New York).Google Scholar
  41. Joreskog, K. G., and D. Sorbom: 1978, Lisrel IV: Analysis of Linear Structural Relationships by the Methods of Maximum Likelihood (International Education Services, Chicago).Google Scholar
  42. Kapteyn, A., and T. Wansbeek: 1982, ‘Empirical evidence on preference formation’, Journal of Economic Psychology 2, pp. 137–154.Google Scholar
  43. Kessler, R. C., and P. Cleary: 1983, ‘Social class and psychological distress’, American Sociological Review 45, pp. 463–478.Google Scholar
  44. Kish, L.: 1965, Survey Sampling (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar
  45. Levin, J. P., S. V. Faraone, and J. A. McGraw: 1981, ‘The effects of income and inflation on personal satisfaction’, Journal of Economic Psychology 1, pp. 303–318.Google Scholar
  46. Levinson, D. J.: 1978, The Season's of a Man's Life (Knopf, New York).Google Scholar
  47. Liem, R., and J. Liem: 1978, ‘Social class and mental illness reconsidered: the role of economic stress and social support’, Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 9, pp. 139–156.Google Scholar
  48. Little, I. M. D.: 1950, A Critique of Welfare Economics (Clarendon, Oxford).Google Scholar
  49. London, H., and J. E. Exner: 1978, Dimensions of Personality (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar
  50. Mason, R., and G. D. Faulkenberry: 1978, ‘Aspirations, achievements and life satisfactions’, Social Indicators Research 5, pp. 133–150.Google Scholar
  51. MacDonald, A. P.: 1973, ‘Internal-external locus of control’, in: J. P. Robinson, and P. R. Shaver (eds.), Measures of social psychological attitudes (University of Michigan, ISR, Ann Arbor).Google Scholar
  52. Michalos, A. C.: 1980, ‘Satisfaction and happiness’, Social Indicators Research 8, pp. 385–422.Google Scholar
  53. O'Malley, P., and J. C. Bachman: 1983, ‘Self-esteem: Change and stability between ages 13 and 23’, Developmental Psychology 19, pp. 257–268.Google Scholar
  54. Pearlin, L. I. et al.: 1981, ‘The stress process’, Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 22, pp. 337–356.Google Scholar
  55. Rorer, L. G., and T. A. Widiger: 1983, ‘Personality structure and assessment’, Annual Review of Psychology 34, pp. 431–464.Google Scholar
  56. Rosenberg, M.: 1965, Society and the Adolescent Self-Image (Princeton University Press, Princeton).Google Scholar
  57. Rotter, J. B.: 1966, ‘Generalised expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement’, Psychological Monographs 80.Google Scholar
  58. Rutter, M.: 1984, ‘Resilient children’, Psychology Today, March, pp. 57–65.Google Scholar
  59. Samuelson, A.: 1955, Economics (New York).Google Scholar
  60. Sarason, I. G., H. M. Levin, R. B. Basham, and B. R. Sarason: 1983, ‘Assessing social support: The social support questionnaire’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 44, pp. 127–139.Google Scholar
  61. Srole, L. et al.: 1962, Mental Health in the Metropolis (McGraw, New York).Google Scholar
  62. Tiger, L.: 1979, Optimism: The Biology of Hope (Simon and Shuster, New York).Google Scholar
  63. Tinbergen, J.: 1981, ‘Some neglected determinants of welfare functions’, Journal of Economic Psychology 1, pp. 25–37.Google Scholar
  64. Vaillant, G.: 1977, Adaptation to Life (Little, Brown, Boston).Google Scholar
  65. Veroff, J. et al.: 1981, The Inner American (Basic Books, New York).Google Scholar
  66. Warr, P. et al.: 1983, ‘On the independence of positive and negative affect’, Journal of Personality and Social Behaviour 44, pp. 644–651.Google Scholar
  67. Wilkening, E. A., and D. McGranahan: 1975, ‘Correlates of subjective well-being in N. Wisconsin’, Social Indicators Research 5, pp. 211–234.Google Scholar
  68. Wilson, W.: 1967, ‘Correlates of avowed happiness’, Psychological Bulletin 67, pp. 294–306.Google Scholar
  69. Wing, J. K., J. E. Cooper, and N. Sartorius: 1974, The Measurement and Classification of Psychiatry Symptoms (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge).Google Scholar
  70. World Health Organisation: 1977, Manual of the International Statistical Association. Classification of diseases, injuries and causes of death (WHO, Geneva).Google Scholar
  71. Wright, S.: 1934, ‘The method of path coefficients’, Analysis of Mathematical Statistics 5, pp. 161–215.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce Headey
    • 1
  • Elsie Holmstrom
    • 1
  • Alexander Wearing
    • 1
  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations