The Psychology of Wellbeing

The psychology of wellbeing. In this short article Dr Jodi O’Dell assesses the importance of measuring the psychology of wellbeing and its impact on organisations.

Placing focus on the psychology of wellbeing is important. Especially for those organisations seeking to improve mental health and reduce anxiety and depression. This is true from a duty of care perspective, but also to avoid the negative impact on performance.

From a human perspective, the impact of poor mental health has been well documented. They include outcomes such as stress, burnout, work overload, compassion fatigue etc.

From a financial perspective, the costs are significant and include absenteeism, sickness, retention, reduced productivity etc. At the extreme, we witness increased reporting of alcoholism, substance abuse and suicide risks, particularly across certain industry sectors.

The psychology of wellbeing

What influences a person’s ability to cope more effectively with pressure and stress?  The psychological research relating to self-efficacy and locus of control provides some clues.

Self-efficacy is concerned with the extent to which someone feels capable, resourceful and resilient and, locus of control is concerned with feelings of control over outcomes.

…the extent to which someone feels capable,
resourceful, resilient and in control


From a theoretical perspective locus of control is linked to attribution theory, i.e. to what do we attribute the outcome and is often described in terms of internal, or external locus of control. Internal locus of control would therefore indicate that a person attributes success or failure of an outcome to themselves, whereas external locus of control would attribute outcomes to ‘external’ factors which are outside a person’s control.

High self-efficacy

Exploring the impact of self-efficacy and locus of control on wellbeing can be useful. Those who report higher levels of self-efficacy and a higher internal locus of control are likely to feel more resourceful and resilient. By resourceful we mean finding solutions to problems, and by resilient we mean remaining strong in the face of pressure. These individuals are also likely to feel more confident to control and influence the outcomes they desire. This can have a positive effect on wellbeing.

Low self-efficacy

In contrast a person with low self-efficacy beliefs (feels less confident and capable) and high external locus of control (feels powerless to control events) are likely to experience wellbeing issues. This will likely include experiencing lower levels of resilience. The negative consequences include work overload, less likely to deal positively with pressure and stress and are less likely to feel confident in defining clearer boundaries for themselves and saying ‘no’.

Measuring wellbeing

The relationship between psychological health, wellbeing and stress responses at work cannot be ignored.  For organisations serious about monitoring and improving wellbeing, assessing and measuring relevant factors is critical. Accurate assessment and data equips organisations with the knowledge and information needed to provide appropriate support to the right people at the right time. Ideally this would be done as a preventative, rather than curative measure.

Accurate assessment and data equips organisations …
to provide the appropriate support to the right people
at the right time

If staff are exhibiting low levels of self-efficacy and high external locus of control, solutions can be implemented to address this, with positive implications for wellbeing. In the absence of metrics and benchmarks however, organisations are left to guess, who, when, where and how to offer support, in the hope that this may randomly improve wellbeing. In our experience, hope is not a plan, far less a solution.

Dr Jodi O’Dell is the founder of Engage, a tool which offers a unique insight into the psychology of wellbeing. Ask us for a free trial.

(C) Engage Coach International 2017