What is wellness? Depends who you ask

Aisti Health is built to understand wellbeing, work and the connections between them in an exceptional way that enables targeted and effective coaching of work or wellbeing. We do that continuously, but the development work is also continuous and at Aisti Health it is often also research-based.

I was involved in a new and interesting study that is part of Krista Kauppi's doctoral thesis. Krista's dissertation consists of publications that are partly based on information collected by Krista herself and partly on information collected by Aisti Health, and the basic purpose of the research is to better understand well-being, its improvement and its impact on work. In the latest study "What is wellness? Investigating the importance of different domains of wellness among laypeople and experts: A survey study.” we compared the perceived importance of 61 different aspects of wellbeing between 1152 "Finnish citizens" and 23 wellbeing experts (physicians, psychologists, work ability coaches, nurses, HR directors and personal trainers). The setting is unique and significant.

Various results can be viewed in the publication, but I will highlight key findings from the study:

  • The same wellbeing themes in the top 10 of both groups of respondents were life satisfaction, mental health, sleep and recovery, ability to function and good self-esteem. These are pieces of well-being that are generally considered essential.

  • There were also big differences in the themes perceived as the most important. Among the laypeople in the top 10 were safety (4th most important vs. experts' 20th), physical health (6th most important vs. experts' 30th), inner peace (7th most important vs. experts' 33rd), self-esteem (8th most important vs. experts' 28th) and access to healthcare (10th most important vs experts' 43rd). I would also like to mention the 11th rank, which was a sense of humor (47 for experts). These differences can be thought of from many angles, but one interpretation is that the wellbeing perspective of the experts is to some extent the perspective of the better-off - one where safety, access to healthcare and health may not yet have faced the same challenges as citizens.

  • In the experts' top 10, there were also wellbeing themes that cannot be found at the top of the citizens' list. These include "coping" (2nd vs. citizens' 18th), work and leisure balance (3rd vs. citizens' 15th), meaningfulness (7th vs. citizens' 25th), healthy lifestyles (8th vs. citizens 16th), brain health (9th vs. citizens' 24th) and community (10th vs. citizens' 45th). These priorities leave the feeling of important, researched and frequently discussed topics in expert discussions, but their focus on citizens' everyday life seems to vary. Similarly, from an expert point of view, the well-being choices that are in the individual's own hands seem to be emphasized more. The community's great importance for experts and little importance for citizens is a special exception to this.

  • An anecdote in the results is the obvious temporal dimension in the definition of wellbeing, and the clearest example of this is the theme "Sleep and recovery" being in the top positions in both groups of respondents. However, anyone who has worked with wellbeing for a long time will remember that 10-15 years ago this key component of wellbeing would not have been anywhere near the top 10 ranking. When defining wellbeing, it is good to keep such a temporal dimension in mind. As time and the world change, so too do different emphases in wellbeing.

  • The study also found numerous differences in the definition of wellbeing according to age, gender, education level and employment status. In terms of wellbeing, younger people emphasized free time and the balance between work and free time, women emphasized security and self-esteem, men sense of humor and self-responsibility, as age increased, the importance of inner peace increased, and unemployed people did not place the importance of lifestyle and love as high as others. In my opinion, these research findings are also in line with everyday observations and the reference research screen.

The results have clear practical conclusions. In the communication, planning and implementation of wellbeing promotion, it should be kept in mind that the concept of wellbeing varies by target group, the persuasiveness of different themes varies by target group, and the experts' view of the important factors of wellbeing is only one perspective. In terms of effective wellbeing measures, it is essential to understand different points of view and to act in a way that addresses wellbeing empathetically and broadly.

Patrik Borg

Aisti Health Oy, director of development

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