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Positive Indicators of Mental Health

Well-being and work engagement as positive indicators

The importance of mental health for persons in gainful employment should not be underestimated, as it represents an important precondition for a healthy and productive life.

Although they play a decisive part for working life, up to now positive indicators of mental health have been researched less than negative indicators, such as depression or burnout.

Changes in perspective through research into positive indicators

The examination of the positive indicators of mental health corresponds to a change in perspective that has been emerging for some years in both scholarship and health policies. (Mental) health is no longer reduced to the question of whether a disorder or an illness exists. It is increasingly understood as a continuum which extends far beyond these elements and comprises characteristics such as well-being, satisfaction and work engagement.

Work and well-being

Well-being is fundamentally of great importance in our lives. It is also important for the functional capacity and productivity of employees. In our research, we have addressed two different concepts - subjective (hedonic) well-being and psychological (eudaimonic) well-being.

Subjective well-being

Subjective well-being is used to describe how well people feel and how satisfied they are. Firstly, it includes cognitive evaluations of a person’s own life, for example satisfaction with their life or work. Secondly, it comprises emotional components such as positive and negative affectivity (or their absence).

Psychological well-being

Psychological or eudaimonic well-being focusses on whether an individual is leading a “good life” and is able to develop to their full potential. According to this concept, people have a high degree of well-being if they experience their lives in a meaningful way, are able to develop on a continuous basis, and have positive relationships with other people. All of these points are closely connected with employment-related characteristics, as interpersonal relationships don’t just play a decisive role in an individual’s private sphere: good relationships with co-workers and line managers are also important to a person’s well-being.

Work and work engagement

The well-being of persons in gainful employment is also decisive to their workplace motivation, which is evident, for example, in their form of workplace engagement. The greater their degree of workplace engagement, the better their workplace performance and health usually are as well. Workplace engagement can be strengthened with the support of line managers and co-workers, as well as by opportunities for further training.

Research goals

We are conducting research into the positive indicators of mental health in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of mental health in general. In this respect, we examine whether and how workplace- and employment-related characteristics affect the well-being and work engagement of persons in gainful employment. In this context, research will be conducted into the reciprocities that exist between these characteristics and how this relationship can be described over extended periods of time. The basis for our studies is provided by a nationwide representative survey of employees who are subject to social security contributions.

Research Projects


Unit 3.4 "Mental Health and Cognitive Capacity"

Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) Nöldnerstr. 40-42 D-10317 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 231 9071-2071 Fax: +49 31 9071-2070

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