Original Article

International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 421-430

Measuring population mental health and social well-being

  • Eric Van LenteAffiliated withHealth Promotion Research Centre, National University of Ireland
  • , Margaret M. BarryAffiliated withHealth Promotion Research Centre, National University of Ireland Email author 
  • , Michal MolchoAffiliated withHealth Promotion Research Centre, National University of Ireland
  • , Karen MorganAffiliated withRoyal College of Surgeons in Ireland
  • , Dorothy WatsonAffiliated withEconomic and Social Research and Trinity College
  • , Janas HarringtonAffiliated withUniversity College Cork
  • , Hannah McGeeAffiliated withRoyal College of Surgeons in Ireland

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Abstract

Objectives

This paper examines the relationships between indicators of positive and negative dimensions of mental health, social well-being and physical health.

Methods

The paper reports on data collected in the third National Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition (SLÁN 2007), a cross-sectional survey conducted with a representative sample of 10,364 Irish adults. The survey included measures of positive mental health and non-specific psychological distress from the SF-36 questionnaire, together with measures of social well-being, subjective health, and selected health behaviours.

Results

Positive mental health is predicted by lower levels of loneliness and higher levels of social support. Better self-rated health, positive health behaviours and lower GP consultation rates are associated with higher levels of positive mental health. Lower levels of social well-being, were found to be the strongest predictors of negative mental health.

Conclusions

Social well-being and health behaviours correlate with both positive and negative mental health. These findings highlight the need to endorse comprehensive approaches to population mental health promotion. The inclusion of both positive and negative mental health indicators in future population health surveys is supported by the findings.

Keywords

Population mental health Social well-being