ArticlePDF Available

Positive Social Psychology: A Multilevel Inquiry Into Sociocultural Well-Being Initiatives.



Although the field of positive psychology has made great strides in developing interventions for wellbeing, many of these are aimed at individuals, designed to engender adaptive psychological qualities and skills. As such, relatively little attention has been paid within the field to the socio-cultural factors that influence health and wellbeing. However, there is an emergent body of work that does focus on these factors, as summarised in this paper. Using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) multileveled ecological systems theory as a framework, the paper provides an overview of socio-cultural wellbeing interventions and research at multiple levels of scale (microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, macrosystems, and ecosystems). In doing so, the paper has two main aims: (a) to show how positive change in wellbeing can be affected by the strategic manipulation of socio-cultural contextual factors; and (b) to suggest ways in which the adoption of such a contextual approach can inform policy making.
Positive Social Psychology:
A Multilevelled Inquiry into Socio-Cultural Wellbeing Initiatives
Dr. Tim Lomas, University of East London, School of Psychology,
Note: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.
It is not the copy of record.
Although the field of positive psychology has made great strides in developing interventions
for wellbeing, many of these are aimed at individuals, designed to engender adaptive
psychological qualities and skills. As such, relatively little attention has been paid within the
field to the socio-cultural factors that influence health and wellbeing. However, there is an
emergent body of work that does focus on these factors, as summarised in this paper. Using
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) multileveled ecological systems theory as a framework, the
paper provides an overview of socio-cultural wellbeing interventions and research at multiple
levels of scale (microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, macrosystems, and ecosystems). In
doing so, the paper has two main aims: (a) to show how positive change in wellbeing can be
affected by the strategic manipulation of socio-cultural contextual factors; and (b) to suggest
ways in which the adoption of such a contextual approach can inform policy making.
Keywords: society; culture; wellbeing; intervention; politics; economics; systemic
Recent years have seen the emergence of positive psychology (PP), which can be defined as
‘the science and practice of improving wellbeing’ (Lomas, Hefferon, & Ivtzan, 2014a, p.ix).
However, although the field has flourished, it has also attracted criticism, prominent among
which is that it pays insufficient attention to the social context of wellbeing (Becker &
Marecek, 2008). This lacuna is reflected in a prominent model within the field, Lyubomirsky,
Sheldon, and Schkade’s (2005) analysis of factors contributing to variance in subjective
wellbeing. Drawing on genetic studies (e.g., Lykken & Tellegen, 1996), the model proposes
that approximately only 10% of the variance is shaped by social circumstances, while 50% is
determined by genetics, and 40% by ‘intentional activities.’ The prominence and influence of
this model and of related discourses around the relative unimportance of context (e.g.,
Seligman, 2002) has been such that, in applied terms, the field has largely focused on
creating individual positive psychology interventions (PPIs). This has meant an emphasis
on strategies and tools to develop psychological skills that fall within the compass of
‘intentional activities(Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009), such as gratitude practices.
Unfortunately, Lyubomirsky et al.’s (2005) model has tended to be misunderstood
and misapplied within the field: although the model expresses population variance, prominent
texts and speakers frequently commit the ecological fallacy of assuming that the 10% figure
for social circumstances necessarily applies to every person within that population. However,
in actuality, context does matter for wellbeing. To give just one illustration of this, men in the
lowest socio-economic class in England are almost three times more likely to suffer from a
common mental disorder than those in the highest (Equality and Human Rights Commission,
2011). There are manifold reasons why this might be the case, including that people in
disadvantageous social positions are more exposed to factors that are detrimental to health
and wellbeing, from lower levels of income (Lund et al., 2010) to higher levels of stressors
such as crime (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004).
Unfortunately, as noted, these social dimensions of wellbeing have often been
overlooked in PP; this omission has been criticised, rather polemically, by Becker and
Marecek (2008, p.1771) who write that ‘To suggest that self-help exercises can suffice in the
absence of social transformation is not only short sighted but morally repugnant.’ However,
in recent years, PP has gradually begun to pay more attention to the social dimensions of
wellbeing (Lomas et al., 2014). Indeed, there is arguably much more of a focus on the socio-
cultural aspects of wellbeing within PP than its critics give it credit for. Moreover, from an
applied perspective, we are seeing increasing efforts to develop strategies to promote
wellbeing at a social level, from community-based interventions (Wall et al., 2009), up to
governmental policy being influenced by a wellbeing agenda (Office for National Statistics,
2011). Indeed, socially-focused initiatives to engender wellbeing have been on-going for
decades in various applied fields, from social work to education. Such initiatives have also
been included within this paper not in the sense that these now ‘belong to’ PP, but simply
that PP can and should engage with work pertaining to wellbeing that has been undertaken in
other related fields.
Such initiatives arguably still fall within the compass of PP, as their primary focus
remains on psychological outcomes, such as measures of subjective wellbeing (Diener et al.,
1985). That said, this paper submits that it is worth conceptualising this emergent batch of
socially-focused wellbeing initiatives as a specific sub-field within the broader discipline of
PP, one which we might refer to as positive social psychology.’ The paper then, has two
main aims: (a) to give an overview of the literature and practices within this sub-field,
thereby showing how positive change in wellbeing can be affected by the strategic
manipulation of socio-cultural contextual factors; and (b) to suggest ways that the adoption of
such a contextual approach can inform public policy. The paper thus aims to heed the recent
plea by Quaglio et al. (2015, p.242) for ‘closer integration of research evidence’ into policy
making, by providing indicative examples of how this might be accomplished with regard to
In order to bring conceptual order and clarity to these tasks, the paper will organise
the literature under discussion according to Bronfenbrenner’s (1977, pp.514-515) influential
experimental ecology. Bronfenbrenner recognised that the individual person (i.e., physical
and psychological functioning) is embedded within four socio-cultural levels of increasing
scale, as well as within a temporal dimension (the chronosystem). The four socio-cultural
levels are: the microsystem (an ‘immediate setting containing that person); the mesosystem
(‘interrelations among major settings’); the exosystem (an ‘extension of the mesosystem
embracing other specific social structures); and the macrosystem (‘overarching institutional
patterns,’ such as economic, social, educational, legal, and political systems’). This paper
examines these four levels in turn, followed by an additional contextual level not present in
Bronfenbrenner’s original model, namely the environmental ecosystem. It will introduce
indicative applied interventions and strategies that have been developed to promote health
and wellbeing
at each of these five levels, and explore the policy implications of research in
these areas.
First though, it is vital to note the importance of considering the ‘person in context,
since people are (a) differentially affected by context, and (b) differentially responsive to
interventions. With (a), this means that people differ in their socio-cultural contexts and thus
in their wellbeing needs. Although this seems like an elementary point, it is often glossed
over in PP (as discussed above in relation to Lyubomirsky et al.’s (2005) model). For
instance, the further down the socio-economic scale people are, the more their wellbeing
appears to be contextually determined, and thus the greater the impact of changing these
contextual factors.
Take income for example. Overall, this has a relatively weak correlation with
wellbeing of around .2 (Lucas & Schimmack, 2009). However, this correlation is itself
meditated by affluence, with a trend of diminishing marginal returns (Blanchflower &
Oswald, 2004). At the lower end of the income scale, there is a robust correlation with
wellbeing; as people and societies become wealthier, overall levels of life satisfaction tend to
rise, since people are increasingly able to satisfy basic biopsychosocial needs. However, once
income rises above the point at which most such needs are satisfied, further increases are no
longer matched by comparable rises in wellbeing, a phenomenon known as the Easterlin
(2001) paradox. Such findings suggest that there would be a greater (cost-effective) benefit in
encouraging pay rises for people on the lowest incomes than in providing an equivalent rise
for an equivalent number of people who already enjoy relatively high incomes.
Regarding (b), new research is beginning to shed light on individual differences in the
extent to which people are susceptible to contextual influences, and hence to interventions
which target context. For instance, Pluess and Belsky’s (2013) ‘Vantage Sensitivity’ model
suggests there may be a genetic component to such susceptibility, with people differing
markedly in developmental ‘plasticity.’ Some people appear to be greatly affected by both
‘Health’ and ‘wellbeing’ are contested concepts, encompassing multiple meanings (de Chavez et al.,
2005). Both can be construed as incorporating multiple dimensions, including physical, emotional,
and social aspects. As such, the terms overlap, and are often used synonymously. Reflecting these
considerations, this paper: (a) uses the terms interchangeably, albeit with a preference for ‘wellbeing’;
and (b) uses both as umbrella labels to encompass a range of positive functioning, i.e., physical,
emotional, and/or social. The context in which the terms are used will make the specific meaning
adverse environments (in a negative way) and nurturing environments (in a positive way),
whereas others are relatively ‘immune’ (neither unduly affected by adversity nor boosted by
affluence). Corroborating this, Pluess and Boniwell (under review) have found that vantage
sensitivity as indexed through perceptual processing sensitivity predicted children’s
responses to a resilience intervention (in terms of its impact on depression outcomes). While
such research is in its infancy, and has yet to really filter into applied practice, it points the
way ahead to more targeted approaches.
Thus, by being cognizant of these two points, we can develop a more sophisticated
and cost-effective approach to policy making, directing interventions to the people and
populations who are most likely to benefit from them. For instance, given limited resources
for implementing an intervention, based on the examples above (which are not exhaustive), it
would make sense to prioritise the most socio-economically deprived sectors of society, and
within that population to focus on people with higher levels of vantage sensitivity. Of course,
there are many other factors that could be taken into account. For example, wellbeing
interventions are often found to have greatest relative benefit for those with poorer mental
health, partly because such people have more scope for improvement (Phillips et al., 2012).
Thus, the targeting in our hypothetical scenario could be refined further, prioritising within
the already highly specified population (low socio-economic status and high vantage
sensitivity) people suffering from poor mental health. While only hypothetical, this example
gives an illustration of potential targeting approaches.
As a final point, it is also worth highlighting the multiple mechanisms through which
socio-cultural interventions may promote positive change. Essentially, in considering the
‘person in context,’ some interventions focus on ‘improving the person’ (i.e., enabling them
to better adapt to their context), and some on ‘improving the context’ (i.e., rendering it more
conducive to wellbeing). As will be seen, person-centred interventions which include
strategies aimed at multiple people (e.g., targeted at whole families) are more likely to be
found at the level of the microsystem. Then, as we proceed up the levels, initiatives are more
likely to be structural and systemic, aimed at altering the environment itself. And so, with that
in mind, let us explore the five levels in turn.
The microsystem refers to the immediate social setting of the person, such as their workplace.
Among the PP literature that has taken the social dimensions of wellbeing into account, it has
usually been limited to this level, to what Bellah et al. (1996, p.xxv) call ‘social in the narrow
sense.’ That is, most social research in PP has focused on the importance of relationships,
which are consistently found to be the most important contextual factor affecting individual
wellbeing (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004). Such research is of course valuable; calling it narrow
simply means it focuses on the relationships themselves, rather than exploring wider systemic
factors that influence such relationships.
In theoretical terms, there are numerous ways to consider the role of interpersonal
relationships in wellbeing. Quality relationships are a potential gateway to some of the most
elevated emotional states (Becker, 1992). More functionally, relationships (e.g., within the
home) can offer ‘protection’ effects, such as division of labour, and emotional support
(Arrindell & Luteijn, 2000). More generally, strong relationships are constitutive of social
capital (Bourdieu, 1986), e.g., as sources of social support that can buffer against stress
(Umberson & Montez, 2010). From an applied perspective, we are beginning to see a wealth
of interventions designed to promote health and wellbeing at a microsystem level. We will
focus on three key microsystems here: family, school, and work.
With the family, there are numerous interventions designed to facilitate ‘positive
parenting’ (Latham, 1994), i.e., conducive to children’s wellbeing and development. For
instance, Sanders’ (1999, p.71) Triple-P Positive Parenting Program is a multi-levelled family
support intervention, designed to ‘reduce the prevalence of behavioural and emotional
problems in preadolescent children.’ A meta-analysis of 55 Triple-P studies concluded it was
effective in producing ‘positive changes in parenting skills, child problem behavior and
parental well-being’ (Nowak & Heinrichs, 2008, p.114). Moreover, a cost-effectiveness
analysis by Mihalopoulos et al. (2007) concluded that Triple-P was a dominant intervention,
since the amount it saves (e.g., in terms of dealing with conduct disorder) far outwieghs its
costs (until the reduction in prevalence falls below 7%). This is but one of many evidence-
based family interventions that have been developed, as outlined by the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (2010) in a comprehensive review of 24 of the most well-
There are also many interactions designed to facilitate good familial interaction
generally. For instance, there are PPIs based around mindfulness a meditation practice
aimed at enhancing awareness focusing on family dynamics such as childbirth and
parenting (Warriner, Dymond, & Williams, 2013) and couples therapy (Wachs & Cordova,
2007). Studies suggest that the awareness facilitated through mindfulness can ameliorate
parental stress, and enhance familial relationships (Bögels, Lehtonen, & Restifo, 2010). In
general (beyond parenting specifically), the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions is
beyond doubt (Shonin et al., 2013). As such, the key question now regards its cost-
A few such analyses are beginning to emerge, albeit usually only in medical contexts;
for instance, van Ravesteijn et al. (2013) compared mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
(MBCT) with enhanced usual care (EUS) in treating persistent medically unexplained
symptoms. While the bootstrapped costs were comparable (a non-significant difference of
€6269 for MBCT vs. €5617 for EUS, with MBCT costing 450 per person), MBCT was
more effective (QALY of 0.674 vs. 0.663), with an Incremental Cost-Effectiveness Ratio of
€56,637 per QALY gained. Similar analyses in other domains, including family behaviour
and relationships, are beginning to be undertaken; for instance the University of Oxford
Mindfulness Centre is currently collaborating with the Oxford University Hospitals NHS
Trust maternity service to introduce and evaluate a Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and
Parenting programme throughout the UK (Warriner et al., 2013).
There is likewise a burgeoning literature on promoting wellbeing at school, with a
proliferation of social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes. The emergence of SEL
initiatives itself reflects macro-system trends, such as policies targeting social and emotional
literacy in schools, as encouraged by the UK Department for Education and Skills (2007),
and the recent ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ in Scotland, described by Thorburn (2014, p.206)
as ‘educating for well-being.’ From a PP perspective, SEL programmes fall within the
compass of the field of ‘positive education’ (Seligman et al., 2009, p.293), defined as
‘education for both traditional skills and for happiness.’
Perhaps the most prominent such intervention is the Penn Resilience Program
(Gillham et al., 1990), a 12 session course aimed at engendering resilience. A meta-analysis
of 17 studies on this found it was effective at reducing depressive symptoms relative to a
passive control group (but not compared to an active control group) (Brunwasser, Gillham, &
Kim, 2009). However, a UK implementation for the Department of Education, involving
Year 7 pupils in 22 schools across three Northern local authorities, produced equivocal
results, with initial positive effects (e.g., in academic attainment and wellbeing) fading by the
one year follow-up (Challen et al., 2011).
Overall, SEL programmes are thought to have a beneficial impact: a meta-analysis of
213 studies found these were generally successful in reducing conduct and emotional issues,
and in enhancing SEL and academic skills (Durlak, Weissberg, & Pachan, 2010). Detailed
cost-effective analyses of a range of such initiatives have been provided by Belfield et al.
(2015). The 4Rs Program (Reading, Writing, Respect and Resolution) was estimated to have
a net value gain of $5,370 per pupil (costing $2,590 each). Its efficacy derived from
enhancing emotional intelligence and reducing aggression, which was calculated to impact
positively not only on school attainment, but future outcomes such as job prospects (hence
the estimated cost-benefit utility).
Of greater relative value was the Positive Action program (a school based curriculum
to promote positive thinking, actions and self-concept), with a net gain of $3,926 per pupil (at
a much lower cost of $510 each). Outcomes driving its efficacy included reduced bullying
(which otherwise has a punitive economic cost) and substance abuse (which might otherwise
lead to future criminality). Even greater cost-benefit value was found with Life Skills
Training (a classroom intervention to reduce violence and substance abuse), with a net gain
of $2,660 per pupil (costing only $130 each), which likewise achieved its value through
predicted reductions in current and future criminality. Given such outcomes (i.e., a focus on
addressing conduct disorder and therefore future behavioural issues), SEL initiatives such as
these reach out beyond PP (with its focus on wellbeing), with relevance to other applied
fields such as social work and even criminal justice rehabilitation. Such estimations give
some indication of the value of SEL initiatives of which many more exist and provide
strong arguments in favour of more widespread policy-driven implementation.
Finally, efforts are being made to understand and promote wellbeing at work, as
reflected in the emergence of paradigms like positive organizational scholarship (Cameron,
Dutton, & Quinn, 2003). The Job Demands-Resources model (Demerouti et al., 2001) views
wellbeing at work as a function of the trade-off between resources (rewarding or supportive
aspects of work) and demands (job stresses). If the former exceeds the latter, the result is
engagement, i.e., ‘a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is characterized by
vigor, dedication, and absorption’ (Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006, p.702); conversely,
if demands outweigh resources, the likely result is work-related stress, and eventually
burnout. Consequently, strategies have been developed to promote the ‘drivers’ of
engagement (Crabb, 2011), including psychological drivers (e.g., a sense of purpose),
physical drivers (e.g., health and safety), and socio-cultural factors (e.g., organisational
values and leadership quality).
The importance of wellbeing at work is now widely recognised; for example, the
American Psychological Association (1999) have established a Psychologically Healthy
Workplace Program, which assesses workplaces on five categories: health and safety, work-
life balance, and employee involvement (in decision making), development, and recognition.
Moreover, many employers worldwide have developed initiatives to enhance wellbeing,
ranging from highly specific measures (e.g., active standing or walking desks to promote
health; Gilson et al., 2012) to more systemic and comprehensive initiatives
. While there is
great diversity among such initiatives, a review by Berry, Mirabito, and Baun (2010)
suggested the best programmes were characterised by: multileveled leadership; wide scope
(mental and not just physical health); individuation (tailored programmes and outcomes);
accessibility; and skilful communication (of the goal and nature of the intervention).
While one would hope that employee wellbeing would be valued for its own sake, the
persuasive buy-in for organisations is the return on investment of such initiatives can offer;
for instance, Berry et al. (2010) report that a programme instantiated by Johnson and Johnson
had given a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent (saving the company approximately $250
million on healthcare costs between 2002 and 2008). Indeed, a comprehensive report by the
World Health Organization on ‘Healthy Workplace’ initiatives concluded that these were
equally the ‘Right Thing’ (from an ethics perspective), the ‘Legal Thing’ (from a regulatory
perspective) and the ‘Smart Thing’ (from a business perspective) to do (Burton, 2010).
Turning now to the mesosystem, this refers to the interaction between microsystems. This
level reflects the recognition that people ‘exist in inter-locking contexts’ which together
affect functioning (Sheridan et al., 2004, p.7). Although mesosystems have tended to be
rather overlooked in PP, there is some good work we can draw upon here. Much of this work
is at the intersection of the three microsystems above: work-family, and school-family.
With work-family, the main mesosystemic factor in the health and wellbeing literature
is work-life balance, the first element of the American Psychological Association’s (1999)
Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. The importance this has been recognised by
governments. For instance, the UK government launched a consultation on flexible working
rights in 2011, with the overall consensus being that it generally enhanced outcomes such as
productivity and retention (Smeaton, Ray, & Knight, 2014). For instance, case studies of
companies like IBM have found that flexible working arrangements (e.g., telecommuting)
have saved millions of dollars, ranging from enhanced retention the average turnover cost
per employee is estimated by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2011) at
£8,200 to reduced building/energy costs (Caldow, 2009). Other flexibility solutions include
onsite childcare, which an Australian survey found increased the odds of above par
Of course, for large organisations, such systemic initiatives could arguably be classified as
exosystem or even macrosystem strategies.
productivity by 1.75 (Brandon & Temple, 2007). Based on such findings, new working
flexibility measures (e.g., regarding parental leave) were implemented into law as part of the
Children and Families Act 2014 (Smeaton et al., 2014).
Also relevant here are initiatives encouraging adaptive mesosystemic behaviours; for
example, recognising that one of the central mesosytemic burdens is commuting (between
microsystems), programmes have been created to encourage active commuting, i.e., walking
or cycling. Such initiatives can have a range of positive outcomes. First, there are benefits in
terms of health. For instance, a range of ‘Fitter for Walking’ initiatives were conducted with
deprived communities across Northern England; these were calculated to have generated
significant financial savings due to decreased mortality (as a result of the health benefits of
walking), with positive benefit-to-cost ratios of between 0.9 and 46 to 1 (Sinnett & Powell,
2012). Businesses can also benefit; one recent study identified the cost-per-workplace of a
walk-to-work initiative as just £441, arguing that this was more than recuperated, not only
from the health benefits of fitter employees, but also outcomes such as increased productivity
and savings from reduced provision of car parking facilities (Audrey et al., 2015). Finally,
such initiatives also have positive environmental impacts (as discussed further below).
There is also good work emerging on the school-family nexus, recognising that these
have a ‘bidirectional, reciprocal influence over each other’ (Sheridan et al., 2004, p.11). This
perspective is often overlooked; as Prilleltensky, Nelson, and Peirson (2001, p.157) put it,
‘we typically psychologize children’s problems and ignore the social and political context in
which their problems occur.’ However, mesosystemic strategies are starting to be developed,
such as family-centred positive psychology (FCPP) (Sheridan et al., 2004). FCPP establishes
partnerships between families and schools through ‘conjoint behavioural consultation’ – ‘a
structured, indirect form of service delivery in which parents and teachers are joined to work
together to address the academic, social, or behavioural needs’ of vulnerable or challenging
children (p.10). A mesosystemic version of the Penn Resilience Program has also been
developed, in which parents are encouraged to themselves use the resilience skills taught on
the course, and to support their child’s use of these at home; a pilot study found this reduced
depression and anxiety in children relative to controls, with effects remaining longitudinally
(one year later) (Gillham et al., 2006).
A particularly prominent and well-validated intervention is Families and Schools
Together (FAST), a multifamily programme created by McDonald et al. (1997). Designed to
build protective factors for children and their parents (e.g., social capital), FAST has been
endorsed by bodies such as Save the Children in the UK (Lindsay, Cullen, & Wellings, 2011)
and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2010). It involves 8 weekly groups (run
by the FAST team), in which families attend the school to participate in joint activities with
their children, and thereafter 22 monthly groups run by parents themselves. FAST is
particularly (though not exclusively) aimed at disadvantaged families, who are more likely to
suffer from low social capital (with all its attendant risks, e.g., poorer educational outcomes),
and moreover are more likely to benefit from participation in the program. Randomised
controlled trials have found the intervention successful in promoting various positive
outcomes, from social capital to educational attainment (McDonald et al., 2006). The
importance and cost-effectiveness of early interventions to address the pernicious and long-
lasting effects of socio-economic inequality has been recognised by the UK government
(Department for Work and Pensions, 2011). Indeed, FAST was one of the programmes
featured in the successful Parenting Early Intervention Programme, which ran from 2008 to
2011 in all English local authorities (Lindsay et al., 2011). At a cost of just £160 per child,
Save the Children thus argue that FAST is highly cost-effective, and should be adopted far
more widely.
Moving up to the exosystem, this refers to the wider ‘social structures’ that ‘impinge upon or
encompass’ the microsystems (Bronfenbrenner, 1977, p.515). One way to conceptualise this
level is through the elastic notion of ‘community’ (from local neighbourhoods, up to larger
social aggregations like cities and even nations). There is a rich body of literature emerging
on the impact of community factors on health and wellbeing. For instance, a comprehensive
analysis by Burke et al. (2009) identified 120 factors, aggregated into six main categories:
necessary human and social services; neighbourhood support; green areas and natural
environment; social make-up of people; neighbourhood affordability; and (absence of)
negative community factors (e.g., crime). From an applied perspective, any action to enhance
such community factors could loosely be termed a wellbeing intervention. We can look at
this issue in two main ways: bottom-up strategies (undertaken by/with specific community
groups) and top-down strategies (systemic initiatives, driven by local authorities). Of course,
both types of strategies are influenced by macrosystemic processes, as discussed below.
Nevertheless, we can still examine exosystemic interventions on their own terms.
Beginning with bottom-up community wellbeing interventions, there are many such
initiatives in the literature. We shall just mention a few to give a sense of the possibilities in
this arena. Some are focused specifically on health. For example, Munro et al. (2004) report
that a community-based exercise programme for older adults had a significant impact on
health outcomes and health-related quality of life; moreover, the initiative was more cost-
effective than most existing medical interventions, with an incremental QALY gain of 0.011
per person in the intervention group, at an incremental cost per QALY ratio of €17,174.
There are also more ambitious community wellbeing initiatives, such as the Well
London’ project, which aims to improve health behaviours among the city’s most deprived
communities (Wall et al., 2009). This is a co-production collaborative project, working with
local communities to identify and meet their specific needs, featuring a range of health and
wellbeing initiatives, including: ‘Healthy Spaces’ (improving public spaces to encourage
physical activity); ‘Active Living’ (informing residents about healthy local resources); ‘Be
Creative, Be Well’ (cultural activities to foster social capital); and ‘DIY Happiness’ (fun
activities). Initial analyses suggest the project has a positive impact on numerous health and
wellbeing metrics at a community level (Phillips et al., 2012).
The Well London project was one of a raft of initiatives funded by The Big Lottery
Fund’s £160 million Well-being Programme. A final report on this by the Centre for Local
Economic Strategy and the New Economics Foundation (2013) assessed the relative efficacy
and value of the different programmes, reporting average increases on various scales (of 1-
10). The most successful for improving overall wellbeing was ‘Branching Out,’ which taught
horticultural skills to people with mental health needs, with an average wellbeing increase of
4.9-5.8. In terms of life satisfaction, the most effective was ‘Plymouth – Well-being,’ which
worked with isolated people to develop social networks, with an average increase of 4.5-7.1.
For healthy eating, the most successful was a ‘Chances4Change Active’ project encouraging
healthy workplace commuting, with an average increase of 7.2-9. Across the various projects,
participants with the lowest baseline levels of wellbeing gained the most, corroborating the
point above about targeting initiatives at those who stand to benefit most.
Community wellbeing can also be improved through top-down local authority
planning. Again, we can just mention a couple of examples to give a sense of the possibilities
here. Many such initiatives are based on the concept of ‘neighbourhood effects,’ the idea that
‘arrangements in human space may significantly affect human behaviour’ (Harcourt, 1998,
p.278). One such example is the ‘broken windows’ theory of policing: this holds that signs of
social disorder (e.g., broken windows) lead to an influx of more serious criminal activity, due
to the perception that policing is ineffective in that area; thus, the strategy involves
aggressively targeting ‘quality of life crimes’ (minor disorder like vandalism) in order to
prevent more serious crime (Wilson & Kelling, 1982). This has been adopted as a policing
strategy by some U.S. cities, where it has arguably contributed to reductions in crime levels
(Kelling & Bratton, 1998).
Another example of ‘neighbourhood effects, the concept of ‘shared spaces’ (Jacobs,
1985). Modern cities tend to prioritise motor traffic in the design of public spaces, rendering
these unwelcoming to pedestrians; Jacobs thus argued for re-shaping the urban architecture to
redress this balance, for example by the seemingly radical idea of removing traffic signs and
markings, thereby compelling drivers and pedestrians to interact more considerately. In a
pilot trial in Makkinga (Holland), this served to reduce traffic speeds by over 40%, where
previous measures had achieved only 10% reductions (Hamilton-Baillie, 2008). The concept
is beginning to be implemented more widely, including by the UK government (Department
of Transport, 2011). Both of these initiatives intersect with other programmes addressed in
this paper; for instance, safe, shared spaces are more likely to encourage active commuting
(Sinnett et al., 2011).
Of course, micro-, meso- and exosystem initiatives are influenced by macrosystem processes,
i.e., ‘economic, social, educational, legal, and political systems’ (Bronfenbrenner, 1977,
p.515). For example, the ability of local authorities to fund interventions such as FAST
(McDonald et al., 1997), or engage in top-down community planning to promote wellbeing,
is limited by budgetary constraints imposed by overarching political systems, e.g., central
government priorities (Grimshaw & Rubery, 2012). Moreover, political systems are
themselves affected by economic systems, as reflected in the reductions in state spending
following the 2008 economic crash (King, 2013). Thus, it is recognised that macrosystems
wield a pervasive, systemic top-down influence on wellbeing, filtered down through exo-,
meso- and microsystems.
Firstly, it is increasingly acknowledged that quality of life depends to a large extent
on ‘effective social and political institutions (Duncan, 2010, p.165). For example, cross-
cultural analyses have shown that country-level subjective wellbeing depends on the extent to
which governments uphold necessities like civil rights, thereby allowing people to experience
factors that are integral to wellbeing, like self-determination (Diener, Diener, & Diener,
2009). This recognition is reflected in initiatives assessing quality of governance and its
impact upon wellbeing. For example, the World Bank produces analyses of governmental
quality across the globe, aggregating 350 variables into six key ‘governance indicators’
(Kaufmann, Kraay, & Mastruzzi, 2009): voice and accountability (e.g., civil rights); stability;
bureaucratic effectiveness; regulatory framework (e.g., economic policies); rule of law (e.g.,
efficacious legal systems); and control of corruption. Such analyses reflect the understanding
that governmental performance on these indices affects the wellbeing of its citizens.
Given this understanding, it is encouraging that some governments are willing to at
least entertain the possibility of allowing wellbeing considerations to inform policy. An
exemplar in this regard is Bhutan, which in 1972 replaced GDP as its metric of progress with
the notion of Gross National Happiness (GNH) (Ura, 2008). Assessments of GNH, made by
canvassing its citizens, are a function of nine domains: psychological wellbeing; time use;
community vitality; cultural diversity and resilience; ecological diversity and resilience;
health; education; living standards; and good governance. Crucially, from an applied stance,
GNH is used by the Gross National Happiness Commission to inform policy decisions, with
all policies systematically evaluated according GNH considerations.
Although Bhutan is pioneering in this regard, the possibility of wellbeing
considerations informing policy have recently entered the political discourse in the UK, and
indeed across the world (Everett, 2015). For instance, in 2011 the UK Office for National
Statistics (2011) started gathering data on subjective wellbeing as part of its Integrated
Household Survey, disseminated annually to 200,000 people, in order to create a National
Well-being index. Moreover, in 2010, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that this
index would help guide policy decisions, and established an internal policy unit the
Behavioural Insight Team geared towards this end (Bache & Reardon, 2013).
However, many advocates for wellbeing-led policy argue for governments to go still
further. For instance, Seaford (2014) makes the wellbeing and economic case for policies to
enhance job security. Similarly Coutts, Stuckler, and Cann (2014) argue for the health and
wellbeing effects of active labour market programs (aiming towards full employment).
Arguments are also made for the multiple justifications for redressing social inequality and
injustice, including health, moral and economic reasons (e.g., Devereux & McGregor, 2014).
For instance, aside from the moral iniquity of child poverty, Bladen, Hansen, and Machin
(2008, p.15) contend that the economic benefits of eradicating this in terms of foregone
earnings, employment and benefit savings correspond to about 1% of GDP [£13 billion at
2008 levels).’
It is worth noting that the notion of governments specifically legislating for the
wellbeing of its citizenry is not without its critics. For example, drawing on anti-political
philosophies such as libertarianism, some have argued that governments have no business
doing this, beyond upholding minimal mechanisms to prevent harm to/by other people
(Jessop, 2002). Recognising the appeal of such arguments, there are attempts to fashion
prescriptive wellbeing policies which nevertheless uphold people’s freedom to eschew these,
such as Thaler and Sunstein’s (2003) notion of ‘libertarian paternalism (the theoretical
foundation for the Behavioural Insights Team). In this, the ‘choice architecture’ is arranged in
such a way that the desirable option (from a wellbeing perspective) is set as the default,
thereby making it more likely to be chosen (by virtue of people’s inertia), as used in
initiatives such as automatic enrolment in pension schemes (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008).
These political considerations must themselves be appraised in the context of other
macrosystem processes, such as economic systems. Although political and economic systems
have tended to exist within bi-directional reciprocal relationships, recent years have seen a
movement towards economic systems assuming primacy (Plehwe, Walpen, & Neunhöffer,
2005). That is, it is increasingly common for governmental policies to be driven by concerns
about the needs of the financial markets (Cox, 1999), particularly since the 2008 global crash
(King, 2013). For instance, widespread austerity policies have been imposed across much of
the world in the name of deficit reduction, severely curtailing state spending, including on
public health policies and the kinds of wellbeing initiatives outlined above (Grimshaw &
Rubery, 2012).
However, just as there are efforts to change political systems to better serve
wellbeing, there are also attempts to similarly reconfigure economic systems. For example,
certain economists and think-tanks have advocated for what Haque (2011) calls a ‘positive
economic paradigm, i.e., one not only concerned with profit maximisation, but with the
wellbeing of people and the environment. For instance, the New Economics Foundation
(NEF) is a UK think-tank which takes its motto from the subtitle of Schumacher’s (1973)
classic Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered.’ NEF promotes policy
recommendations designed to transform the economy so that it works for people and the
planet’; these include the ‘Happy Planet Index,’ which assesses societal progress by
weighting the life satisfaction of countries against their ecological footprint (Abdallah et al.,
2009). Calls to reform the economic sphere are also emerging in the form of progressive
social movements, like the recent Occupy protests in major financial centres (DeLuca,
Lawson, & Sun, 2012). Such causes are relevant to PP, as they aim towards flourishing and
wellbeing crucially, though, not an individualist person-centred form of flourishing, but one
inextricably connected to equitable and just social settlements (Becker & Marecek, 2008).
Finally, we might touch upon the relevance to wellbeing of the broader ecosystem, which
encompasses the other layers of Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) experimental ecology. The global
ecosystem was not part of Bronfenbrenner’s original framework. However, this was added as
an outer tier in a recent adaptation of the model by Lomas et al. (2014b), reflecting the idea
that all the other levels are embedded within a still larger context of the biosphere, upon
which they depend for their very existence. While the environment should ideally matter to
us for its own sake, even from an instrumental human-centric perspective, it is a fundamental
concern, since existentially our wellbeing depends upon the wellbeing of the environment:
Earth must be capable of supporting life for flourishing to even be conceivable (Smith et al.,
2013). Moreover, aside from questions of existential survival, human quality of life depends
on environmental factors like air quality and access to fresh water (Boyd & Banzhaf, 2007).
Although concern for nature has existed in some form for millennia, it is only in the
decades since Rachel Carson’s (1962) Silent Spring that environmentalism has come to
prominence as a social concern (Griswold, 2012). With increasing awareness of the
existential dangers caused by anthropogenic climate change, environmental concerns have
risen up the political and cultural agenda (McCright, Dunlap, & Xiao, 2013). Consequently,
assessments of societal wellbeing and progress are being developed that take environmental
variables into account, such as NEF’s ‘Happy Planet Index’ (Abdallah et al., 2009), cited
above. Moreover, from an applied perspective, since environmental wellbeing depends to a
large extent upon human behaviour, efforts are being made to encourage people to act in
more sustainable ways.
Indeed, ecological initiatives are being developed at all of Bronfenbrenner’s (1977)
levels of scale. For instance, at a microsystem level, there are efforts to promote sustainable
energy consumption by equipping houses with smart meters that provide feedback on energy
expenditure (Fischer, 2008). Here we might also consider initiatives that aim to encourage
respect for and engagement with nature, e.g., wellbeing interventions involving gardening
(Milligan, Gatrell, & Bingley, 2004). At a mesosystemic level, sustainable behaviour can be
promoted by encouraging energy efficient travel (i.e., reducing energy consumption used
commuting between microsystems), such as car-pooling (Kearney & De Young, 1995) or
active commuting (Sinnett & Powell, 2012).
At an exosystem level, sustainability initiatives include the promotion of
environmentally-friendly behaviours like recycling, such as interventions that attempt to
position it as a cultural norm (Hopper & Nielsen, 1991), and on-going efforts to establish or
enhance the provision of local recycling services (Read, 1999). At a macrosystem level,
environmentalism is being promoted through policy commitments to sustainability, including
regulatory initiatives such as carbon limits and trading (Spash, 2010), and efforts to develop
and utilise estimates of natural capital (Everett, 2015). More broadly, the macro-pressure of
progressive social environmental movements helps provide the impetus for such policy
initiatives (Griswold, 2012). Together, these programmes and strategies reflect our nascent
collective efforts to promote environmental wellbeing, which in turn is so vitally important to
our own wellbeing.
This paper has shown the value and indeed necessity of approaching wellbeing at multiple
socio-cultural levels, from microsystems to the ecosystem. It is increasingly recognised that
wellbeing is not simply a matter of people’s individual choices and psychological qualities,
but is complexly determined by socio-cultural factors at many different levels of scale. As
such, from an applied perspective, our collective wellbeing will be enhanced to the extent that
we are able to structure our socio-cultural environment to better promote this end. The
proposed ‘positive social psychology’ which this paper has attempted to introduce and
summarise will hopefully be useful going forward in helping to achieve this goal.
Abdallah, S., Thompson, S., Michaelson, J., Marks, N., & Steuer, N. (2009). The Happy
Planet Index 2.0: Why Good Lives don’t have to Cost the Earth. London: NEF (New
Economics Foundation).
Arrindell, W. A., & Luteijn, F. (2000). Similarity between intimate partners for personality
traits as related to individual levels of satisfaction with life. Personality and
Individual Differences, 28(4), 629-637.
American Psychological Association (1999). What is a Psychologically Healthy Workplace?
Washington: American Psychological Association.
Audrey, S., Procter, S., Cooper, A., Mutrie, N., Hollingworth, W., Davis, A., . . . Campbell,
R. (2015). Employer schemes to encourage walking to work: Feasibility study
incorporating an exploratory randomised controlled trial. NIHR Journals Library,
Bache, I., & Reardon, L. (2013). An idea whose time has come? Explaining the rise of well-
being in British politics. Political Studies, 61(4), 898-914.
Becker, D., & Marecek, J. (2008). Dreaming the American dream: Individualism and positive
psychology. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2(5), 1767-1780.
Becker, L. C. (1992). Good lives: Prolegomena. Social Philosophy and Policy, 9(2), 15-37.
Belfield, C., Bowden, B., Klapp, A., Levin, H., Shand, R., & Zander, S. (2015). The
Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning. Columbia: Center for Benefit-
Cost Studies in Education.
Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (1996). Habits of
the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press.
Berry, L., Mirabito, A. M., & Baun, W. B. (2010). What's the hard return on employee
wellness programs? Harvard Business Review, December, 2012-2068.
Bladen, J., Hansen, D., & Machin, S. (2008). The GDP Cost of the Lost Earning Potential of
Adults who grew up in Poverty. York: The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2004). Well-being over time in Britain and the USA.
Journal of Public Economics, 88(78), 1359-1386.
Bögels, S., Lehtonen, A., & Restifo, K. (2010). Mindful Parenting in Mental Health Care.
Mindfulness, 1(2), 107-120.
Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory
and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241-258). New York: Greenwood.
Boyd, J., & Banzhaf, S. (2007). What are ecosystem services? The need for standardized
environmental accounting units. Ecological Economics, 63(2), 616-626.
Brandon, P. D., & Temple, J. B. (2007). Family provisions at the workplace andtheir
relationship to absenteeism, retention, and productivity of workers: Timely evidence
from prior data. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 42(4), 447-460.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development.
American Psychologist, 32(7), 513-531.
Brunwasser, S. M., Gillham, J. E., & Kim, E. S. (2009). A meta-analytic review of the Penn
Resiliency Program’s effect on depressive symptoms. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 77(6), 1042-1054.
Burke, J., O'Campo, P., Salmon, C., & Walker, R. (2009). Pathways connecting
neighborhood influences and mental well-being: Socioeconomic position and gender
differences. Social Science & Medicine, 68(7), 1294-1304.
Burton, J. (2010). WHO Healthy Workplace: Background and Supporting Literature and
Practice. Geneva: World Health Organization.
Caldow, J. (2009). Working Outside the Box: A Study of the Growing Momentum in
Telework. New York: Institute for Electronic Government, IBM Corporation.
Cameron, K. S., Dutton, J. E., & Quinn, R. E. (2003). Foundations of positive organizational
scholarship. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive
Organizational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline (pp. 3-13). Berrett-
Koehler: San Francisco.
Carson, R. (1962). Silent Spring. New York: First Mariner Books.
Centre for Local Economic Strategy and New Economics Foundation (2013). Big Lottery
Fund National Well-being Evaluation: Final report. CLES European Research
Network: London.
Challen, A., Noden, P., West, A., & Machin, S. (2011). UK Resilience Programme
Evaluation: Final Report. London: Department for Education.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2011). A Barometer of HR Trends and
Prospects 2011. London: CIPD.
Coutts, A. P., Stuckler, D., & Cann, D. J. (2014). The health and wellbeing effects of active
labor market programs. In F. A. Huppert & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Interventions and
Policies to Enhance Wellbeing (Vol. VI, pp. 465-482). Chichester, UK: Wiley-
Cox, H. (1999). The market as God. The Atlantic Monthly, 283(3), 18-23.
Crabb, S. (2011). The use of coaching principles to foster employee engagement. The
Coaching Psychologist, 7(1), 27-34.
DeLuca, K. M., Lawson, S., & Sun, Y. (2012). Occupy Wall Street on the public screens of
social media: The many framings of the birth of a protest movement. Communication,
Culture & Critique, 5(4), 483-509.
Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Nachreiner, F., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2001). The job demands-
resources model of burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(3), 499-512.
Department for Transport (2011). Shared Space. London: The Stationery Office.
Department for Work and Pensions (2011). A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the
Causes of Disadvantage and Transforming Families' Lives. London: HM
Devereux, S., & McGregor, J. A. (2014). Transforming social protection: Human wellbeing
and social justice. European Journal of Development Research, 26(3), 296-310.
Diener, E., Diener, M., & Diener, C. (2009). Factors predicting the subjective well-being of
nations. Culture and well-being, 38, 43-70.
Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life
scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71-75.
Duncan, G. (2010). Should happiness-maximization be the goal of government? Journal of
Happiness Studies, 11(2), 163-178.
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta-analysis of after-school
programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents.
American Journal of Community Psychology, 45(3-4), 294-309.
Easterlin, R. A. (2001). Income and happiness: Towards a unified theory. The Economic
Journal, 111(473), 465-484.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (2011). How Fair is Britain? Equality, Human
Rights and Good Relations in 2010 Triennial Review 2010.
Everett, G. (2015). Measuring national well-being: A UK perspective. Review of Income and
Wealth, 61(1), 34-42.
Fischer, C. (2008). Feedback on household electricity consumption: A tool for saving
energy? Energy efficiency, 1(1), 79-104.
Gillham, J. E., Jaycox, L. H., Reivich, K. J., Seligman, M. E. P., & Silver, T. (1990). The
Penn Resiliency Program: Unpublished Manual, University of Pennsylvania,
Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K. J., Freres, D. R., Lascher, M., Litzinger, S., Shatté, A., &
Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). School-based prevention of depression and anxiety
symptoms in early adolescence: A pilot of a parent intervention component. School
Psychology Quarterly, 21(3), 323-348.
Gilson, N. D., Suppini, A., Ryde, G. C., Brown, H. E., & Brown, W. J. (2012). Does the use
of standing ‘hot’ desks change sedentary work time in an open plan office? Preventive
Medicine, 54(1), 65-67.
Grimshaw, D., & Rubery, J. (2012). Reinforcing neoliberalism: Crisis and austerity in the
UK. In S. Lehndorff (Ed.), A triumph of failed ideas European models of capitalism in
the crisis (pp. 41-58). Brussels: European Trade Union Initiative.
Griswold, E. (2012, 23 September 2012.). How ‘Silent Spring’ ignited the environmental
movement, New York Times.
Hamilton-Baillie, B. (2008). Shared space: Reconciling people, places and traffic. Built
environment, 34(2), 161-181.
Haque, U. (2011). Betterness: Economics for Humans. Cambridge: Harvard Business Press.
Harcourt, B. E. (1998). Reflecting on the subject: A critique of the social influence
conception of deterrence, the broken windows theory, and order-maintenance policing
New York style. Michigan Law Review, 97(2), 291-389.
Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of wellbeing. Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences,
359(1449), 1435-1446.
Hopper, J. R., & Nielsen, J. M. (1991). Recycling as altruistic behavior: Normative and
behavioral strategies to expand participation in a community recycling program.
Environment and Behavior, 23(2), 195-220.
Jacobs, A., B. (1985). Looking at Cities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Jessop, B. (2002). Liberalism, neoliberalism, and urban governance: A statetheoretical
perspective. Antipode, 34(3), 452-472.
Kaufmann, D., Kraay, A., & Mastruzzi, M. (2009). Governance matters VIII: Aggregate and
individual governance indicators, 1996-2008. World bank policy research working
Kearney, A. R., & De Young, R. (1995). A knowledge-based intervention for promoting
carpooling. Environment and Behavior, 27(5), 650-678.
Kelling, G. L., & Bratton, W. J. (1998). Declining crime rates: Insiders' views of the New
York City story. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), 88(4), 1217-
King, N. (2013). Local authority sport services under the UK coalition government:
Retention, revision or curtailment? International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics.
doi: 10.1080/19406940.2013.825873
Latham, G. I. (1994). The Power of Positive Parenting. North Logan, UT: P&T Ink.
Lindsay, G., Cullen, S., & Wellings, C. (2011). Bringing Families and Schools Together:
Giving children in high-poverty areas the best start at school. London: Save the
Lindsay, G., Strand, S., Cullen, M.-A., Cullen, S. M., Band, S., Davis, H., . . . Evans, R.
(2011). Evaluation of the Parenting Early Intervention Programme. London:
Department for Education, Research Report DFE-RR121.
Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014a). Applied Positive Psychology: Integrated
Positive Practice. London: Sage.
Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014b). The LIFE model: A meta-theoretical
conceptual map for applied positive psychology. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi:
Lucas, R. E., & Schimmack, U. (2009). Income and well-being: How big is the gap between
the rich and the poor? Journal of Research in Personality, 43(1), 75-78.
Lykken, D., & Tellegen, A. (1996). Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon. Psychological
Science, 7(3), 186-189.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The
architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111-131.
McCright, A., Dunlap, R., & Xiao, C. (2013). Perceived scientific agreement and support for
government action on climate change in the USA. Climatic Change, 119(2), 511-518.
McDonald, L., Billingham, S., Conrad, T., Morgan, A., O, N., & Payton, E. (1997). Families
and schools together (FAST): Integrating community development with clinical
strategies. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 78(2),
McDonald, L., Moberg, D. P., Brown, R., Rodriguez-Espiricueta, I., Flores, N. I., Burke, M.
P., & Coover, G. (2006). After-school multifamily groups: A randomized controlled
trial involving low-income, urban, Latino children. Children & Schools, 28(1), 25-34.
Mihalopoulos, C., Sanders, M. R., Turner, K. M., Murphy-Brennan, M., & Carter, R. (2007).
Does the Triple PPositive Parenting Program provide value for money? Australian
and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 41(3), 239-246.
Milligan, C., Gatrell, A., & Bingley, A. (2004). ‘Cultivating health’: Therapeutic landscapes
and older people in northern England. Social Science & Medicine, 58, 17811793.
Munro, J. F., Nicholl, J. P., Brazier, J. E., Davey, R., & Cochrane, T. (2004). Cost
effectiveness of a community based exercise programme in over 65 year olds: cluster
randomised trial. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 58(12), 1004-
Nowak, C., & Heinrichs, N. (2008). A comprehensive meta-analysis of Triple P-Positive
Parenting Program using hierarchical linear modeling: Effectiveness and moderating
variables. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 11(3), 114-144.
Office for National Statistics (2011). Initial Investigation into Subjective Well-being from the
Opinions Survey. London: Office for National Statistics.
Phillips, G., Hayes, R., Bottomley, C., Petticrew, M., Watts, P., Lock, K., . . . Renton, A.
(2012). OP06 Well London: Results of a cluster-randomised trial of a community
development approach to improving health behaviours and mental wellbeing in
deprived inner-city neighbourhoods. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,
66(Suppl 1), A3.
Plehwe, D., Walpen, B. J., & Neunhöffer, G. (Eds.). (2005). Neoliberal Hegemony: A Global
Critique. New York: Routledge.
Pluess, M., & Belsky, J. (2013). Vantage sensitivity: Individual differences in response to
positive experiences. Psychological Bulletin, 139(4), 901-916.
Pluess, M., & Boniwell, I. (under review). Sensory-processing sensitivity predicts treatment
response to a school-based depression prevention program: Evidence of vantage
Prilleltensky, I., Nelson, G., & Peirson, L. (2001). The role of power and control in children's
lives: An ecological analysis of pathways toward wellness, resilience and problems.
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 11(2), 143-158.
Quaglio, G., McGuinness, M., Rübig, P., Nutt, D., Karapiperis, T., Pandolfo, M., & Südhof,
T. C. (2015). Building bridges between neuroscientific evidence and policy. The
Lancet Neurology, 14(3), 242-245.
Read, A. D. (1999). “A weekly doorstep recycling collection, I had no idea we could!”:
Overcoming the local barriers to participation. Resources, Conservation and
Recycling, 26(34), 217-249.
Sanders, M. R. (1999). Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: Towards an empirically
validated multilevel parenting and family support strategy for the prevention of
behavior and emotional problems in children. Clinical Child and Family Psychology
Review, 2(2), 71-90.
Schaufeli, W. B., Bakker, A. B., & Salanova, M. (2006). The measurement of work
engagement with a short questionnaire: A cross-national study. Educational and
Psychological Measurement, 66(4), 701-716.
Schumacher, E. F. (2010 (1973)). Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.
London: Harper Collins.
Seaford, C. (2014). What implications does well-being science have for economic policy? In
T. J. Hämäläinen & J. Michaelson (Eds.), Well-Being and Beyond: Broadening the
Public and Policy Discourse (pp. 221-243). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness New York: Free Press.
Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive
education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of
Education, 35(3), 293-311.
Sheridan, S. M., Warnes, E. D., Cowan, R. J., Schemm, A. V., & Clarke, B. L. (2004).
Family-centered positive psychology: Focusing on strengths to build student success.
Psychology in the Schools, 41(1), 7-17.
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., Slade, K., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013). Mindfulness and other
Buddhist-derived interventions in correctional settings: A systematic review.
Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18(3), 365-372.
Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive
symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis.
Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 467-487.
Sinnett, D., & Powell, J. (2012). Economic evaluation of Living Streets’ fitter for walking
project. Loughborough: University of Loughborough.
Sinnett, D., Williams, K., Chatterjee, K., & Cavill, N. (2011). Making the case for investment
in the walking environment: A review of the evidence. Bristol: University of the West
of England.
Smeaton, D., Ray, K., & Knight, G. (2014). Costs and Benefits to Business of Adopting Work
Life Balance Working Practices: A Literature Review. London: Department for
Business Innovation and Skills
Smith, L. M., Case, J. L., Smith, H. M., Harwell, L. C., & Summers, J. K. (2013). Relating
ecoystem services to domains of human well-being: Foundation for a U.S. index.
Ecological Indicators, 28(0), 79-90.
Spash, C. L. (2010). The brave new world of carbon trading. New Political Economy, 15(2),
Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2003). Libertarian paternalism. The American Economic
Review, 93(2), 175-179.
Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth,
and Happiness. Boston: Yale University Press.
Thorburn, M. (2014). Educating for well-being in Scotland: Policy and philosophy, pitfalls
and possibilities. Oxford Review of Education, 40(2), 206-222.
Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health. Journal of Health and
Social Behavior, 51(1), 54-66.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2010). Compilation of Evidence-Based Family
Skills Training Programmes. New York: United Nations.
Ura, K. (2008). Explanation of GNH Index. Thimphu, Bhutan: The Center for Bhutan
van Ravesteijn, H., Grutters, J., olde Hartman, T., Lucassen, P., Bor, H., van Weel, C., . . .
Speckens, A. (2013). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for patients with medically
unexplained symptoms: A cost-effectiveness study. Journal of Psychosomatic
Research, 74(3), 197-205.
Wachs, K., & Cordova, J. V. (2007). Mindful relating: Exploring mindfulness and emotion
repertoires in intimate relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(4),
Wall, M., Hayes, R., Moore, D., Petticrew, M., Clow, A., Schmidt, E., . . . Renton, A. (2009).
Evaluation of community level interventions to address social and structural
determinants of health: a cluster randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health,
9(1), 207.
Warriner, S., Dymond, M., & Williams, M. (2013). Mindfulness in maternity. British Journal
of Midwifery, 21(7), 520-522.
Wilson, J. Q., & Kelling, G. L. (1982). Broken windows: The police and neighborhood
safety. Atlantic Monthly, 29-38.
... However, this point is often underappreciated. Psychology has been critiqued as paying insufficient attention to the social context of wellbeing (Lomas, 2015b) perhaps influenced by the individualism of the Western contexts in which the field primarily developed (Becker & Marecek, 2008). Through this cultural lens, people are liable to focus more on happiness as an individual phenomenon (e.g., dwelling on people's strengths)a potentially Western-centric view of happinessrather than attending to its collective dimensions (e.g., its socio-cultural factors). ...
... Finally, most factors (except perhaps temperament) are shaped in a top-down macrosystemic way by a nexus of influences which might broadly be labelled governance. This overarching label covers the way people's lives are influenced by power structures and dynamics around them (Lomas, 2015b(Lomas, , 2017a. We saw above for instance that two factors identified by the WHR were freedom and corruption. ...
Full-text available
Happiness is an increasingly prominent topic across academia, with a burgeoning array of research into its different aspects. Among the most dynamic and interdisciplinary work in this arena are studies exploring the myriad factors that influence it. These span multiple topics and fields of enquiry, from physiology and identity to politics and economics, covering analyses at both individual and national levels. This paper offers a comprehensive overview of such work, identifying seven overarching ‘conditions’ (in themselves multifaceted) that contribute towards the complex creation of happiness: temperament; health; demographics; relationships and communities; culture; economics and equality; and governance. Theoretically, these are conceived as constituting the ‘multidimensional conditionality’ of happiness (i.e. conditions that contribute to its arising, which interact in complex ways). The paper also highlights issues with current scholarship, providing a stimulus for further work on this important topic.
... Social ecological models may provide a means to better understand the complexity of wellbeing, by placing the individual within their social and natural ecologies. 5,29 The individual is positioned within increasing phenomenological scales, extending to the ecosystem and the life course, highlighting systemic influences on wellbeing that also change over time (i.e. the chronosystem). This temporal dimension was explicit in earlier iterations of our framework, 3 while more recent iterations have emphasised the multi-levelled domains of wellbeing. ...
Full-text available
Society faces several major interrelated challenges which have an increasingly profound impact on global health including inequalities, inequities, chronic disease and the climate catastrophe. We argue here that a focus on the determinants of wellbeing across multiple domains offers under-realised potential for promoting the 'whole health' of individuals, communities and nature. Here, we review recent theoretical innovations that have laid the foundations for our own theoretical model of wellbeing-the GENIAL framework-which explicitly links health to wellbeing, broadly defined. We emphasise key determinants across multiple levels of scale spanning the individual, community and environmental levels, providing opportunities for positive change that is either constrained or facilitated by a host of sociostructural factors lying beyond the immediate control of the individual (e.g. social cohesion and health-related inequities can either promote or adversely impact on wellbeing, respectively). Following this, we show how the GENIAL theoretical framework has been applied to various populations including university students and people living with neurological disorders, with a focus on acquired brain injury. The wider implication of our work is discussed in terms of its contribution to the understanding of 'whole health' as well as laying the foundations for a 'whole systems' approach to improving health and wellbeing in a just and sustainable way.
... Thus, the positive collective psychology in the first quadrant consists of positive psychologies in public spheres, including politics, economy, and society. So then, the research on political themes and well-being can be called "positive political psychology 2 similar to "positive social psychology" (Lomas, 2015) concerning sociocultural well-being in general. ...
Full-text available
This manuscript explores the relationship between positive psychology and political philosophy, revealing an inter-disciplinary approach that speaks to the concerns of the common good. Since positive psychology has been expanding its reach into social and political spheres, its relationship to philosophical arguments has been worthy of exploration. Positive psychology is associated with utilitarianism, and aspects of hedonic psychology. However, an alternative concept of eudaimonic well-being has enabled this psychology to have links to other political philosophies. Therefore, this manuscript provides an overview of contemporary political philosophies: first, it discusses the debate between liberalism and communitarianism, and secondly, it summarizes the subsequent developments of liberal perfectionism, capability approach, and deliberative democracy. Then, the configuration of these political philosophies is indicated by the figure of two axes of “individual/collective” and “ethical/non-ethical.” The following section compiles the inter-relationships between the conceptions of citizenship, justice, and well-being, regarding the main political philosophies: egoism, utilitarianism, libertarianism, liberalism, communitarianism, and conservatism. Utilitarianism is associated with happiness, while liberalism and libertarianism rely on the concept of rights, which is almost equal to the idea of justice. Accordingly, utilitarianism is a philosophy of well-being, while liberalism and libertarianism are philosophies of justice. However, there is little connection between well-being and justice in these philosophies because the two kinds of philosophies are incompatible. The latter kind criticizes the former because the maximization of happiness can infringe on people’s rights. Moreover, these philosophies do not particularly value citizenship. In contrast, communitarianism is intrinsically the political philosophy of citizenship most attuned to increasing well-being, and it can connect an idea of justice with well-being. The final part offers a framework to develop an inter-disciplinary collaboration. Positive psychology can provide the empirical basis of the two axes above concerning political philosophies. On the other hand, the correspondence makes the character of political philosophies clearer. While libertarianism and liberalism correspond to psychology as usual, utilitarianism and communitarianism correspond to positive psychology, and the latter can be regarded as positive political philosophies. This recognition leads to the interdisciplinary framework, enabling multi-disciplinary collaboration, including work with the social sciences, which could benefit the common good.
... First of all, one of the necessary conditions for implementing PPIs in schools and other educational settings (e.g., daycare) is to have trained educators, notably because they can be the connection between school and families [68]. For parents, being trained allows them to contribute and reinforce at home the message that children learn at school [12]. ...
Full-text available
Over the last 20 years, the effectiveness of positive psychology interventions for the development of the well-being of children and adolescents and the moderation of high levels of anxiety and depression in this population has been largely demonstrated. Emphasis has been placed on the promotion of well-being and prevention of mental health problems in the school context in order to foster, through positive psychology, the cognitive and socio-emotional development of primary and secondary students, e.g., by strengthening positive relationships, positive emotions, character strengths, optimism, and hope. However, little is known about the impact of these interventions on young children. This systematic review aims at examining the effects of positive psychology interventions on the well-being of early childhood children (<6 years old), both in the preschool education context with educators or teachers and also in the family context with parents. Several electronic databases were searched, and the findings systematically reviewed and reported by the PRISMA guidelines. Very few studies met the inclusion criteria (n = 3), highlighting the need for further research in this area. Indeed, all of the selected studies demonstrated the importance of positive psychology interventions with young children to promote positive aspects of development, such as gratitude, positive emotions, life satisfaction, accomplishment, positive relationship, or self-esteem. Limitations in the field are discussed.
... As the understanding of positive psychology grows, it is being incorporated throughout academia and culture more broadly. Positive psychology is ushering in collaborative scholarship that unifies diverse fields of study such as positive education (Seligman et al., 2009), positive clinical psychology (Wood & Tarrier, 2010), positive social psychology (Lomas, 2015), positive neuroscience (Urry et al., 2004), and positive humanities (Tay et al., 2018). ...
The youth corrections system is in need of reform. Emerging work from the field of positive criminology is working to shift the focus from retribution and risk management to strengths building and positive youth development. Research suggests, targeted strategies from positive psychology can provide youth with opportunities to counteract the potentially deleterious effects of incarceration, especially as adolescent neurobehavioral development offers a ripe opportunity for positive interventions that enhance wellbeing. Strengths-based compassion, the proposed positive intervention described within, uses mindfulness, character strengths, and the cultivation of compassion to improve self-regulation and self-discipline, increase self-esteem, improve social skills, and reduce recidivism. The proposed eight-week program is designed through a trauma-responsive lens that has been adapted for youth in a correctional facility and creates the potential for revolutionary change in the hearts and minds of young offenders. This change positions youth on a productive path in which they desist from future criminal activity and increase pathways for flourishing in their lives after incarceration.
... The framework encourages reflection on how wellbeing might be improved by targeting features across individual (e.g., positive emotions, and physical health behaviours), community (e.g., social support and connection), and environmental domains (nature connectedness). While these domains broadly reflect higher levels of scale consistent with Bronfenbrenner's adapted multi-levelled ecological systems theory (Lomas, 2015), there is scope for the individual to build wellbeing within each of these domains. For the present study, we chose variables-shown in previous work to contribute to wellbeing-from each of these domains. ...
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a global threat to physical and mental health worldwide. Research has highlighted adverse impacts of COVID-19 on wellbeing but has yet to offer insights as to how wellbeing may be protected. Inspired by developments in wellbeing science and guided by our own theoretical framework (the GENIAL model), we examined the role of various potentially protective factors in a sample of 138 participants from the United Kingdom. Protective factors included physical activity (i.e., a health behaviour that helps to build psychological wellbeing), tragic optimism (optimism in the face of tragedy), gratitude (a prosocial emotion), social support (the perception or experience of being loved, cared for, and valued by others), and nature connectedness (physical and psychological connection to nature). Initial analysis involved the application of one-sample t-tests, which confirmed that wellbeing (measured by the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being scale) in the current sample (N = 138; M = 46.08, SD = 9.22) was significantly lower compared to previous samples (d = −0.36 and d = −0.41). Protective factors were observed to account for up to 50% of variance in wellbeing in a hierarchical linear regression that controlled for a range of sociostructural factors including age, gender, and subjective social status, which impact on wellbeing but lie beyond individual control. Gratitude and tragic optimism emerged as significant contributors to the model. Our results identify key psychological attributes that may be harnessed through various positive psychology strategies to mitigate the adverse impacts of hardship and suffering, consistent with an existential positive psychology of suffering.
... This approach is consistent with second-and third-wave positive psychology (Kern et al., 2019;Lomas et al., 2020;Wong, 2019) and is inspired by and complementary to multilevelled social ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1977;Lomas, 2015). The first week of the module provides students with background information and theory, after which students are introduced to a variety of interventions relevant to the focus of weeks two to five (Kemp & Fisher, 2021b). ...
Full-text available
Abstract Introduction: Psychological science is undergoing a period of change and transformation. Statement of the Problem: The crisis in confidence over psychological science has led to an emphasis on larger and larger sample sizes, sustaining an unfortunate neglect of single-subject research designs in undergraduate education. Literature Review: We identified several excellent articles advocating for the benefits of single-subject and small N designs over group-based research designs, yet single-case designs are seldom taught at undergraduate level. Teaching Implications: Teachers of psychology are provided with resources for implementing training in single-case research designs at undergraduate level, enabling students to draw objective conclusions in an N-of-1 research report. We do this using an example from a recently developed module on wellbeing science. Conclusion: Embedding an underused methodological approach for determining objective change in single individuals into undergraduate psychology curricula will help to develop practical skills applicable to many roles in the discipline of psychology, the healthcare sector and the quantified-self community.
... Furthermore, sustainability has been specifically linked to wellbeing, an idea that characterises the "positive psychology of sustainability" (Verdugo, 2012;Corral-Verdugo et al., 2015;Corral-Verdugo and Frías-Armenta, 2016), with researchers highlighting the positive psychological consequences of pro-ecological, altruistic, frugal and equitable behaviour (Corral-Verdugo et al., 2011. While our framework places the individual within the context of their social and natural ecologies, consistent with recent developments in wellbeing science (Lomas, 2015;Nielsen and Ma, 2018), there is also a need to consider factors that impact on wellbeing that lie well beyond the control of individuals. We turn our attention to such factors next. ...
Full-text available
The construct of wellbeing has been criticised as a neoliberal construction of western individualism that ignores wider systemic issues such as inequality and anthropogenic climate change. Accordingly, there have been increasing calls for a broader conceptualisation of wellbeing. Here we impose an interpretative framework on previously published literature and theory, and present a theoretical framework that brings into focus the multifaceted determinants of wellbeing and their interactions across multiple domains and levels of scale. We define wellbeing as positive psychological experience, promoted by connections to self, community and environment, supported by healthy vagal function, all of which are impacted by socio-contextual factors that lie beyond the control of the individual. By emphasising the factors within and beyond the control of the individual and highlighting how vagal function both affects and are impacted by key domains, the biopsychosocial underpinnings of wellbeing are explicitly linked to a broader context that is consistent with, yet complementary to, multi-levelled ecological systems theory. Reflecting on the reciprocal relationships between multiple domains, levels of scale and related social contextual factors known to impact on wellbeing, our GENIAL framework may provide a foundation for a transdisciplinary science of wellbeing that has the potential to promote the wellbeing of individuals while also playing a key role in tackling major societal challenges.
... Contextual approaches are useful in addressing issues of human and ecological survival, economic promise, social and political stability (Lelkes, 2013;Pykett & Cromby, 2017;Yakushko, 2018), and even responses to COVID-19 (van Bavel et al., 2020). For example, studies have shown that the lower individuals are on the socioeconomic scale, the more their wellbeing is impacted by contextual rather than psychological factors (Lomas, 2015). Further, costs of resolving systemic factors like crime, poverty, inequality, social isolation, and unemployment have larger effects than those gained from wellbeing efforts (Clark et al., 2017;Lelkes, 2013). ...
Full-text available
How the COVID-19 pandemic will affect society long-term remains to be seen, but the role taken by wellbeing researchers and practitioners can shape our communal future. Never has wellbeing and the field of psychology been better equipped, nor more relevant, in addressing issues of sustainable development known to significantly contribute to and underlie wellbeing. While efforts have been made across many areas, with each converging into the need for a more systemic view evidenced by theoretical developments in the field of positive psychology, wellbeing cannot remain the purview of individuals alone. Positive psychology interventions can be expanded to include attention to social and ecological issues as well. To support our claim, we explore issues that researchers and practitioners are tackling globally and consider how the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can guide that work. We also look at which of the SDGs are most critical in the Middle East region. Researchers and practitioners must align their activities towards the resolution of broad systemic issues bearing on wellbeing identified by the SDG agenda and in this manner, effectively contribute to the creation of a better world.
... De esto se infiere que hay una construcción, socio-culturalmente delimitada, de los procesos psicológicos emocionales, positivos y negativos. No existen verdades psicológicas universales en psicología en general, ni tampoco en la PP, en particular (Lomas, 2015b(Lomas, , 2016b. Incluso, el concepto de felicidad en un contexto socio-cultural, puede suscitar aversión en otras culturas (Joshanloo, 2015). ...
Full-text available
El libro es una dura crítica a la teoría de al psicología positiva. Luis Fernández-Ríos sólo hizo un largo Prólogo, que agradezco al autor Julio Alfonso Piña López la invitación. El autor del libro (Anti - Psicología Positiva) expone sus ideas acerca de la psicología positiva de forma sencilla, clara y precisa. Vale mucho la pena leerlo.
Full-text available
There is a growing body of research emphasizing the advantages of teaching students social and emotional (SE) skills in school. Here we examine the economic value of these skills within a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) framework. Our examination has three parts. First, we describe how the current method of BCA must be expanded to adequately evaluate SE skills, and we identify important decisions analysts must make. Second, we review the evidence on the benefits of SE skills, again noting key methodological issues with respect to shadow pricing. Finally, we perform BCA of four selected social and emotional learning (SEL) interventions: 4Rs; Second Step, Life Skills Training; and Responsive Classroom. These analyses illustrate both methodological and empirical challenges in estimating net present values for these interventions. Even with these challenges, we find that the benefits of these interventions substantially outweigh the costs. We highlight promising areas of research for improving the application of BCA to SEL.
Full-text available
This article calls for a moment of pause to consider the current direction of social protection thinking and practice. It introduces a special issue in which a range of authors explore the relationship between social protection and social justice. The article argues that the currently technocratic approach to social protection will neither be sustainable as a form of development intervention, nor produce sustainable reductions in poverty. The analysis takes us to the ontological heart of the technocratic approach and highlights the inadequacy of approaches based on methodological individualism for achieving sustainable and more socially just development outcomes. Using a human wellbeing framework and combining this with the idea of transformative social protection, the article proposes that there are different ways of conceiving, designing and implementing social protection so that they are better able to contribute to the promotion of social justice in specific developing country contexts. © 2014 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes.
Describes an excercise in looking at a street in San Francisco with its associated housing and services, and attempts to see what physical, social and economic processes are operating. Then describes a method for assessing how much can really be told about a neighbourhood by lokking. Relates the potential usefulness of the approach to the needs of urban planners.-R.Land
This chapter presents findings on the relationships between employment status, health, and wellbeing, focusing on the protective role of active labor market programs (ALMPs). Conceptual frameworks from work psychology and social epidemiology are used to understand how employment status and participation in ALMPs affect health and wellbeing. Economic insecurity and involuntary unemployment pose significant risks to health and wellbeing. It is found that participating in ALMPs helps improve resilience to the health risks of unemployment and increases the likelihood of job reintegration. ALMPs are most successful when programs combine personal development, as well as skills training and employment recovery. In the context of austerity policies, investment in ALMPs offers economic and social value through helping to protect public health while readying the economy for recovery.
Background Few public health interventions combining modification of the social and built environment with individual-level health promotion have been robustly evaluated in the UK. Well London is an assets-based community development programme designed to improve physical activity, healthy eating and mental wellbeing in highly deprived inner-city communities. The programme, delivered between 2007 and 2011, comprised a mix of projects delivering traditional health promotion, community development and changes to the physical neighbourhood environment. The objectives of the study are to: (i) determine the effectiveness of Well London for improving healthy eating, physical activity and mental wellbeing in deprived inner-city communities; (ii) examine the effects in population subgroups linked to health inequalities in the UK. Methods We used a pair-matched, cluster-randomised trial with 20 control neighbourhoods matched within London boroughs to 20 programme delivery neighbourhoods. The trial outcomes in adult residents (aged ≥16 years) were collected using a structured electronic household survey, administered by fieldworkers to 100 randomly sampled residents in each intervention and control neighbourhood. The main outcome measures were: physical activity: meeting UK Chief Medical Officer-recommended five sessions of 30 minutes moderate intensity activity per week (self-report International Physical Activity Questionnaire); healthy eating: eating at least five portions of fruit/vegetables per day (food frequency questionnaire from the Health Survey for England); and mental wellbeing: abnormal score on 12-item General Health Questionnaire; Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale score. Results The baseline survey in 2008 showed that the intervention and control populations are comparable on socio-demographic/economic characteristics and primary trial outcomes. At baseline, 37% of adults met the five-a-day (healthy eating), 60% met the five-a-week (physical activity), and 18% reported experiencing anxiety or depression. Results from the follow-up survey will be available in April 2012. We will present the effects of Well London on the primary outcomes and subgroup analyses by gender, age, ethnicity and level of education. Conclusion In a health system where less than 1% of the research budget is spent on primary preventive interventions for non-communicable diseases, robust evidence about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of upstream interventions is essential for action on health inequalities and reductions in healthcare spending recommended by the Marmot Review (2010) and the Wanless report (2004).