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What Is Well-Being?

Well-being is an optimal and dynamic state that allows people to achieve their full potential.1

The concept of well-being is both simple and complex. In its most basic sense, well-being is an overall measurement (or evaluation) of life. If we are doing well and are generally satisfied with our life, then our well-being is good. And when our well-being is good, we are able to lead a successful life driven by purpose, fulfillment, and achievement.

Well-being is broad and multifaceted with correlations to numerous aspects of our life. It is impacted by many factors, both psychological and physical. These factors not only impact our satisfaction with life, they also influence our desire or ability to pursue and achieve our individual and collective capabilities. Thus, when we dedicate necessary time and effort to each area of well-being, we increase our chances for success, happiness, and a life defined as thriving

Well-being is not easily defined, and many variations of this term exist throughout the literature. For consistency, we refer to the Inter-Association Definition of Well-Being (NIRSA, 2020).

Subjective and Objective Well-being

Altogether, well-being can be understood (and defined) as a state that is determined and measured by a mix of subjective and objective factors.

Well-being can be categorized/summarized into two main categories, subjective and objective:

Subjective Well-Being Objective Well-Being
Subjective well-being includes/involves psychological factors, such as our perceptions, confidence, fulfillment, sense of belonging and purpose. When considered subjectively, well-being is unique to each individual. Objective well-being includes/involves physical factors that widely account for our basic needs. Examples include food/nutrition, money, employment, housing, safety, physical and mental health, and human rights. Objectively, well-being comprises elements or standards that apply within larger society.

Individual and Community Well-Being

Well-being is not solely a condition that applies to us individually, it applies to our communities as well.

Individual Well-Being Community Well-Being
Individual well-being can be described as the perceived assessment of one's own life, having one's human rights and needs met, and one's contribution to the community. Community well-being can be described as the relationships and connectedness, perceived quality of life for all people in the community, and how well the community meets the needs of all members.


1NIRSA, NASPA, & ACHA (2020)