Download complete Subjective Wellbeing domain
Subjective wellbeing refers to people’s emotional health, ability to live full and creative lives, and capacity to deal with life’s challenges . It is a positive concept, meaning that subjective wellbeing can also be defined as flourishing, where people are engaged with life, and have a sense of meaning and purpose . Having high levels of subjective wellbeing can positively affect most dimensions of people’s lives: family and friendships, employment, education, physical health, and life expectancy . Subjective wellbeing is influenced by a wide range of circumstances, events, and policies.
Subjective wellbeing includes strengths-based concepts such as resourcefulness and resilience. Major local events such as the Canterbury earthquakes and the Christchurch mosque attacks of March 2019 can, and often do, have a negative impact on wellbeing [4,5]. Similarly, the impact of such events may be apparent in community-level data, as are presented here. However, over time, those experiencing mild psychological reactions should be able re-establish good levels of wellbeing if they receive basic support [6-8]. The recovery process can take 5 to 10 years or longer .
Key trends within subjective wellbeing
Currently, more than eight out of ten respondents (84.4%) to the Canterbury Wellbeing Survey rate their overall quality of life as good or extremely good. The overall upward trend (starting from 73.5% in 2012) is statistically significant. After a statistically significant increase in emotional wellbeing (as measured by mean score on the WHO-5 scale) between 2013 and 2018, (mean score of 15.4 points in 2018 compared to 13.8 points in 2013), the mean emotional wellbeing score has plateaued in 2019 and 2020.
There has been a statistically significant downward trend in self-reported stress over the last several years. However, the 2020 result shows a statistically significant increase in the proportion of respondents experiencing stress, compared with the 2019 result (71.6% in 2020 up from 67.9% in 2019). Finally, in the 2018 New Zealand General Social Survey, 87.5% of Canterbury respondents rated their sense of purpose highly (7 or more out of 10 on the ‘life worthwhile scale’) and 82.9% rated their family wellbeing highly (7 out of 10 on the ‘family wellbeing scale’); both relatively unchanged from the previous result and similar to New Zealand overall.
Key equity issues within subjective wellbeing
The post-earthquake improvements seen in subjective wellbeing are not uniform across the population. The proportion of those rating their quality of life as good or extremely good has generally been higher for European respondents, compared with Māori and Pacific/Asian/Indian respondents. At least in part, this is likely to be driven by household income levels, as the results show income to be strongly positively related to overall quality of life.
The levels of emotional wellbeing reported by greater Christchurch respondents increased overall between 2013 and 2018 and have subsequently plateaued. However, levels of emotional wellbeing indicated by Māori respondents have generally been lower than those for European and Pacific/Asian/Indian respondents, especially in the early years of the post-earthquake period, but not significantly different in more recent results. There is also a pattern of higher emotional wellbeing scores for male respondents compared with female respondents, and for those without a disability or long-term health condition.
What this means for wellbeing
The overall picture for subjective wellbeing in greater Christchurch is a positive one, with noteworthy improvements in the quality of life, emotional wellbeing, and stress indicators through until 2019. A number of indicators have either plateaued or declined in the November 2020 Canterbury Wellbeing Survey, which may reflect a negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on subjective wellbeing.
- Aked J, Marks N, Cordon C, Thompson S (2008) Five Ways to Wellbeing: A report presented to the Foresight Project on communicating the evidence base for improving people’s well-being. London: New Economics Foundation.
- Diener E, Wirtz D, Tov W, Kim-Prieto C, Choi D (2009) New measures of well-being: Flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research 39: 247-266.
- UK Government (2010) Confident communities, brighter futures: A framework for developing wellbeing. UK Government: Department of Health and New Horizons.
- Beaglehole B, Mulder RT, Frampton CM, Boden JM, Newton-Howes G, et al. (2018) Psychological distress and psychiatric disorder after natural disasters: Systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry: 1-7.
- Bidwell S (2011) Long term planning for recovery after disasters: Ensuring health in all policies (HiAP). Community and Public Health for Healthy Christchurch. 4–5 p.
- Bonanno GA, Diminich ED (2013) Annual Research Review: Positive adjustment to adversity -Trajectories of minimal-impact resilience and emergent resilience. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines 54: 378-401.
- Galea S, Nandi A, Vlahov D (2005) The epidemiology of post-traumatic stress disorder after disasters. Epidemiol Rev 27: 78-91.
- Lock S, Rubin GJ, Murray V, Rogers MB, Amlot R, et al. (2012) Secondary stressors and extreme events and disasters: A systematic review of primary research from 2010-2011. PLoS Curr 4.
- Ramanathan CS, Dutta S, editors (2013) Governance, Development, and Social Work. London: Routledge Publishers (Taylor and Francis Group).
- Bowling A (2001) Measuring Disease. A Review of Disease-specific Quality of Life Measurement Scales. Buckingham: Open University Press.
- CERA (2012) CERA Wellbeing Survey 2012 Report, prepared by AC Nielsen for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. AC Nielsen and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.
- Topp CW, Ostergaard SD, Sondergaard S, Bech P (2015) The WHO-5 Well-Being Index: A systematic review of the literature. Psychother Psychosom 84: 167-176.
- Selye H (1936) A syndrome produced by diverse nocuous agents. Nature 138.
- Chandola T, Britton A, Brunner E, Hemingway H, Malik M, et al. (2008) Work stress and coronary heart disease: What are the mechanisms? European Heart Journal 29: 640-648.
- Selye H (1976) Stress in health and disease. Stoneham MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
- World Health Organization (2013) Guidelines for the management of conditions specifically related to stress. Geneva: WHO.
- CDHB (2020) Canterbury Wellbeing Survey, 2020: Report prepared by Nielsen for the Canterbury District Health Board and partnering agencies. Christchurch: Canterbury District Health Board.
- The Quality of Life Project. Report prepared by Nielsen for the Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin City Councils and partnering agencies. Available from: www.qualityoflifeproject.govt.nz/survey.htm.
- Vaishnavi S, Connor K, Davidson JRT (2007) An abbreviated version of the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC), the CD-RISC2: Psychometric properties and applications in psychopharmacological trials. Psychiatry research 152: 293-297.
- Windle G, Bennett KM, Noyes J (2011) A methodological review of resilience measurement scales. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 9: 8.
- Davidson JRT (2020) Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CDRISC) Manual. Unpublished.
- Connor KM, Davidson JR (2003) Development of a new resilience scale: The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC).
- Windle G (2011) What is resilience? A review and concept analysis. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology 21: 152-169.
- Bonanno G (2004) Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience: Have We Underestimated the Human Capacity to Thrive After Extremely Aversive Events? American Psychologist 59: 20-28.
- Richardson GE (2002) The metatheory of resilience and resiliency. Journal of Clinical Psychology 58: 307-321.
- Richardson GE, Neiger BL, Jensen S, Kumpfer KL (1990) The Resiliency Model. Health Education 21: 33-39.
- Statistics New Zealand (2016) New Zealand General Social Survey 2016. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.
- Families Commission (2013) Families and whānau Status report: Towards measuring the wellbeing of families and whānau. Wellington: Families Commission.
- Wollny I, Apps J, Henricson C (2010) Can government measure family wellbeing? London: Family and Parenting Institute. Available from: https://www.familyandparenting.org/Resources/ FPI/Documents/CanGovernmentMeasureFamilyWellbeing.pdf.
- Cotterell G, von Randow M, Wheldon M (2008) Measuring Changes in Family and Whānau Wellbeing Using Census Data, 1981–2006: A preliminary analysis. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.
- Baker K (2016) The Whānau Rangatiratanga Frameworks: Approaching whānau wellbeing from within Te Ao Māori. Wellington: Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit.
- Fletcher M (2007) Issues in developing a conceptual framework for ‘family wellbeing'. National Family Wellbeing Symposium, Canberra, 20–21 June 2007.
- Statistics New Zealand (2006) International developments in family statistics. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.
- Statistics New Zealand (2007) Review of official family statistics. Consultation Paper. New Zealand: Wellington.
- Statistics New Zealand (2013) Te Kupenga 2013: A survey of Māori well-being questionnaire. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.
- Statistics New Zealand (2018) New Zealand General Social Survey 2018 data dictionary (version 29). Statistics New Zealand.
Find out more
- Community and Public Health wellbeing and resilience information
This webpage contains links to statistics and resources about mental health and wellbeing.
- Mental Health Foundation
'There is no health without mental health'. This webpage contains links to resources about mental health and wellbeing.
- The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale
This website contains comprehensive information on scale administration, psychometric validity, reliability, and other technical information, as well as information on registration and user agreements.