Episode 9: Psychological well-being and physical health with Dr. Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald
We are increasingly acknowledging how psychological well-being is more than the absence of distress. There are other aspects such as optimism, gratitude and purpose which greatly impact how we experience life. In this episode we learn more about the current research on this subject and how you can actually increase your psychological well-being even if your distress level remains the same. We also talk about the connections between psychological well-being, physical health and longevity. Professor Trudel-Fitzgerald has extensive experience in this field and is working on solutions to implement this knowledge into the public health debate and further on into people’s lives.
Main topic notes
- What sparked your interest in this topic of research? [02:30]
- Are we becoming more aware of the importance of psychological well-being as an aspect of overall health? [04:21]
- How do you define psychological well-being? [05:14]
- Eudaimonic and hedonic well-being [05:58]
- The concept of “Ikigai” [06:52]
- Psychological well-being and physical health [08:20]
- Psychological well-being and longevity [10:01]
- Are single aspects enough or do we need the combination of several dimensions of well-being? [11:36]
- The nun study [12:47]
- How do fluctuations in happiness affect us? [14:47]
- The connection between psychological well-being and mortality [17:07]
- Psychological well-being and stress levels [20:57]
- Psychological well-being as independent from psychological distress [22:27]
- Improving psychological well-being from a public health perspective [25:58]
- Psychological well-being as a means in itself [33:37]
- The future of this field of research [34:37]
Trudel-Fitzgerald C, Millstein RA, von Hippel C, Howe CJ, Tomasso LP, Wagner GR, VanderWeele TJ. Psychological well-being as part of the public health debate? Insight into dimensions, interventions, and policy. BMC Public Health. 2019 Dec 19;19(1):1712. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-8029-x. PMID: 31856772; PMCID: PMC6923969.
- An important shift in how we think about psychological wellbeing is that we now know that it is more than just the absence of psychological distress. Research has shown that people with depression or anxiety can, despite having no change in those symptoms, still improve their overall psychological well-being through increasing different positive components.
- Purpose in life, personal growth and mastery, happiness, optimism and life satisfaction are components that have shown a beneficial effect on physical health. Most of these components showed effects such as reduced risk of dying or developing certain cardiovascular diseases over time.
- There are different pathways through which psychological well-being affects health. People with higher levels of psychological well being seem to maintain healthier habits over time. Similarly, people with a high level of the subcomponent purpose in life seem more likely to follow medical recommendations such as health screenings. In addition there are biological pathways with increased antioxidants or improved lipid levels for example. It could also be beneficial through increased resilience and buffering or undoing the negative effects of stress.
- Even though there is much we can do on the individual level it is equally important to work on implementing health promotion through the environment. This means for example increasing access to knowledge on psychological well-being, supporting access to therapy or providing more nature experiences close to where people live.
- And finally something to remember. Psychological well-being is an important outcome on its own. We don’t know how much time we have and I believe spending it as much as we can in joy and contentment is spending it wisely.