The individual, place, and wellbeing – a network analysis

McElroy, Eoin, Ashton, Mathew, Bagnall, Anne Marie, Comerford, Terence, Mckeown, Michael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0235-1923, Patalay, Praveetha, Pennington, Andy, South, Jane, Wilson, Tim et al (2021) The individual, place, and wellbeing – a network analysis. BMC Public Health, 21 (1). p. 1621.

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Abstract: Background: Previous research has examined individual-level and place characteristics as correlates of subjective wellbeing, with many studies concluding that individual factors (e.g. health, finances) are more strongly related to wellbeing. However, this ‘dualistic’ approach has been challenged, with some arguing that it is impossible to disentangle the effects of the two domains, and that wellbeing should be considered as part of a network of mutually reinforcing relationships between individual, community and place characteristics. We used network analysis to explore these complex associations. Methods: Data were from a large sample of adults from a socioeconomically disadvantaged region of the United Kingdom (N = 4319). Wellbeing was assessed using the 7-item version of the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS). Mixed graphical networks were estimated including wellbeing, place and individual-characteristic variables as nodes. Results: We found a densely connected network in which wellbeing was associated, both directly and indirectly, with all of the individual, community and place characteristics assessed. Wellbeing was most strongly connected with individual characteristics, in particular financial difficulty and subjective physical health. However, controlling for all other variables in the network model, wellbeing was positively associated with local greenspace usage, civic agency, and neighbourhood cohesion, and negatively associated with housing disrepair. Greater specificity in these associations was observed when the wellbeing construct was broken down into its constituent parts. Conclusions: These findings highlight the complex relationships that exist between individual, community and place characteristics in the context of subjective wellbeing, and that all domains need to be considered when developing population-level strategies to improve wellbeing. Further consideration needs to be given to how this might happen in practice, for example through a combination of consistent use of community engagement methodologies alongside Health in All Policy (HiAP) approaches.

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