New Paper – A systems perspective on human flourishing within and across countries

A new paper in The Journal of Positive Psychology examines the dynamics of human flourishing through a systems perspective based on the relations between its constituents.  Using cross-sectional data from adults in 10 countries, this study explored the interrelatedness among constituents of flourishing – happiness & satisfaction with life, mental & physical health, meaning & purpose, character & virtue, close social relationships, and financial & material stability – within and across countries.

Understanding human flourishing not only requires researchers and practitioners to identify which aspects of human life are central for well-being, but also to determine how the constituents of flourishing work together and influence each other under different circumstances. This systems perspective conceptualizes flourishing as a network of interacting factors, emphasizing the interdependence of flourishing constituents. Using secondary, cross-sectional data, this study explored cross-country similarities and differences in the dynamics of a multisystemic network of flourishing.

The flourishing of an individual has traditionally been represented as the aggregation of their functioning across different salient aspects of human life. In the study, the authors, including the Human Flourishing Program’s Richard G. Cowden, Matthew T. Lee and Tyler J. VanderWeele, and SHINE‘s Eileen McNeely, applied a systems perspective to characterize and evaluate flourishing as a multisystemic network of interconnected, interdependent constituents whose relations can show similarities as well as differences across contexts. Although they found similarities across countries, the findings indicated that flourishing might be best characterized by a unique network of interrelated constituents within each country. There was also evidence to suggest that the constituents of flourishing might shape how the other constituents of flourishing are associated with one another. If future theory and research can account for the relational patterns between the constituents of flourishing, our understanding of flourishing and capacity to promote complete well-being could be greatly enhanced.

Read the full paper.