Road closed for farmers' market


An understanding of individual and community wellbeing can inform public

policy and ultimately lead to healthier, happier and more productive people and

communities. Helping people to live meaningful and fulfilled lives can enhance social

and economic growth.

Evidence based insights for public policy and everyday living

Wellbeing is a multi-faceted concept that includes physical and mental health, but also security – of food, income, and identity (personal and collective) – and environmental sustainability. Particularly important are factors that build people’s resilience and make communities more liveable. All these depend on a strong, supportive and just society that affords all its members opportunities for growth and development.

Individual wellbeing matters

A focus on wellbeing in psychology represents an early intervention or prevention approach to mental health.

Mental health and wellbeing are more than the absence of negative psychological states or mental illness; and more than ‘feeling good’ but living a good quality of life. From a positive psychology perspective, there are five core elements of psychological wellbeing:

  • Positive emotions – experiencing happiness and satisfaction with life
  • Engagement – feeling connected to people, work and the world around us
  • Relationships – having satisfying social networks, such as family, friends or workmates
  • Meaning – finding a sense of purpose in one’s life
  • Accomplishment – developing opportunities to fulfil one’s potential for a contributing life.

As life is full of uncertainty, it is essential to develop coping skills and flexibility to manage challenges as they arise. The concept of resilience has emerged as an important component of wellbeing that can be applied to individuals, families, schools, organisations and communities. Resilience is defi ned as the capacity to anticipate, avoid, adapt to, and recover from the impacts of injury, violence and adversity. It also involves the capacity to develop and stay open to positive connections and opportunities.

Community wellbeing matters

Community wellbeing is more than the sum of individual members’ wellbeing, because our psychological needs are intertwined with the needs and influence of our families, organisations and communities. It refers to the quality of life experienced by people living together in communities – their social bonds, capacity and resilience.

A resilient community is more able to respond to adverse events, and be more eff ective and inclusive in delivering basic functions in both good times and bad. Such resilience is associated not only with better individual outcomes, but also social innovation and productivity.

Community wellbeing indicators

A focus on wellbeing is relevant for psychology as a discipline and practice, and for public policy, which affects all domains of quality of life. Particularly important indicators of, and strategies to promote, community wellbeing have been identified as:

1. Healthy and safe communities

  • Support local initiatives that promote health, wellbeing and mental health
  • Promote personal and community safety by taking action on crime prevention, family violence, road safety and workplace safety

2. Community connectedness and belonging

  • Provide opportunities for people to connect with neighbours and to participate in their community (e.g., sporting groups)
  • Promote inclusive communities that involve disadvantaged groups

3. Diverse and vibrant communities

  • Promote recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as First Nation’s people and celebrate their cultures past and present
  • Actively support diverse cultures, religions, genders, abilities, ages and sexualities
  • Provide opportunities in arts, cultural, recreation and sporting activities

4. Well resourced and connected local neighbourhoods

  • Provide integrated services locally and ensure they are accessible
  • Support the liveability of communities and the resilience of people in regional and rural Australia

5. Democratic and engaged communities

  • Provide adequate opportunities for people to have a say on important issues
  • Ensure engagement processes are transparent and citizens feel their voice is heard so they can have confidence in decision-making processes

6. Sustainable built and natural environments

  • Ensure built environments promote wellbeing and access on a social, emotional, physical and geographical level, including adequate open spaces
  • Provide adequate, affordable and quality housing and public transport
  • Promote care for natural environments and encourage sustainable energy use

The APS is committed to promoting individual and community wellbeing. Wellbeing should be a primary planning focus and its rigorous measurement a policy imperative, including those factors that affect wellbeing.

All psychologists have a responsibility to improve both individual and community wellbeing, and community and government leaders can enable the flourishing of individuals and communities by reframing policy goals to place wellbeing at the centre.


2016 Presidential Initiative Booklet

These insights are described in more detail in an overview of the 2016 Presidential Initiative The Contributions of Psychology to the Big Issues of the 21st Century


Community Wellbeing Reflection Tool

The Community Wellbeing Reflection Tool has been developed by the APS as a way of operationalising the APS’s strategic objective of being value to the community and specifically to be responsive to community needs and advocate for community wellbeing.

It aims to ensure that community wellbeing is always prominent in APS positions on issues of public interest and to improve the APS’s knowledge, responsiveness, effectiveness and accountability in relation to enhancing community wellbeing.


Mattering and Community Change: The role of wellness and fairness in leading a meaningful life

A presentation by Prof Isaac Prilleltensky, School of Education and Human Development, University of Miami.