Be Kind and Act Justly for Your Own Health. Evidence from a Three-Wave Longitudinal Study.

Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska , Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Piotr Bialowolski, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Tyler VanderWeele, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Eileen McNeely, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

There is some theoretical and empirical evidence that character strengths, such as helping others, and being kind, support human thriving. We examine the impact of character strengths on a broader conceptualization of ‘human flourishing’ that includes physical and emotional health, as well as, happiness and life satisfaction, meaning and purpose, and close social relationships. We use data from the three waves of the SHINE Well-Being Survey and lagged regression with control for confounders at baseline (wave 1) and prior outcomes and exposure (wave 1), to evaluate the temporal association between the character strength (wave 2) and 14 outcomes (wave 3). Always acting to promote good in all circumstances, even in difficult and challenging situations, was found to be positively associated with subsequent: (1) life satisfaction and happiness, (2) meaning and purpose, (3) close social relationships, (4) mental health, (5) feeling lonely and (6) feeling stressed at work. Our findings support the idea that complete human flourishing and the ability to sustain complete well-being over time, may relate to being good and acting justly. Most interestingly, current public health initiatives do not typically extend into the realm of character strengths. Instead, the view of health is often limited to physical and mental health without a line of sight to the related dimensions of complete human flourishing. Our findings suggest that if we re-imagine health, we might see the value of prudence and virtue in enhancing the performance of every actor.

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 Presented in Session 93. Mental Health and Wellbeing