Conceptual Foundations for Assessing the Meaning of Wellbeing

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: 416
Oral Presentation
Joanne ABBEY , Australian Catholic University, Fitzroy Victoria, Australia
Pat BAZELEY , Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, University of New South Wales, Kensington NSW, Australia
For a survey to have content and construct validity, it is first necessary to establish a clear understanding of the concept being measured. Although studies attempting to measure wellbeing in many different disciplines and settings abound, conceptual and theoretical development of the construct has been lacking. This paper reports the methods used, outcome, and benefits of undertaking systemic foundational research to develop a contextualised concept of wellbeing in each of two quite different workplaces. Abbey’s phenomenographic, concept-building approach used innovative interview methods from marketing and education to tap into participants’ experiences of wellbeing in their workplaces. The projective value of visual images (selected by participants) as metaphors communicated social meaning, thought, embodied experience and emotions (Zaltman, 1996). Questions based on Sykes et al. (2006) study of Learning from Past Success elicited emblematic personal wellbeing experiences. Resulting data were analysed to derive a multilevel, multidimensional concept of wellbeing for each workplace. Comparison of the concepts suggested that wellbeing in work settings is best understood as a class of concepts with a constant structure of three domains – a structure that is comprised of locally contextualised common elements and one domain that clearly differentiates sites. Cross-national survey development can benefit from understanding this domain structure and how elements within it might vary according to site. More critically, the study points to the value of undertaking foundational research in any site to tap local subjective meaning. This will ensure the concepts to be measured using quantitative devices have clearly identified boundaries and constituent elements.