Journal Article

Well-being and consumer culture: a different kind of public health problem?

Sandra Carlisle and Phil Hanlon

in Health Promotion International

Volume 22, issue 3, pages 261-268
Published in print September 2007 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online August 2007 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI:
Well-being and consumer culture: a different kind of public health problem?

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The concept of well-being is now of interest to many disciplines; as a consequence, it presents an increasingly complex and contested territory. We suggest that much current thinking about well-being can be summarized in terms of four main discourses: scientific, popular, critical and environmental. Exponents of the scientific discourse argue that subjective well-being is now static or declining in developed countries: a paradox for economists, as incomes have grown considerably. Psychological observations on the loss of subjective well-being have also entered popular awareness, in simplified form, and conceptions of well-being as happiness are now influencing contemporary political debate and policy-making. These views have not escaped criticism. Philosophers understand well-being as part of a flourishing human life, not just happiness. Some social theorists critique the export of specific cultural concepts of well-being as human universals. Others view well-being as a potentially divisive construct that may contribute to maintaining social inequalities. Environmentalists argue that socio-cultural patterns of over-consumption, within the neo-liberal economies of developed societies, present an impending ecological threat to individual, social and global well-being. As the four discourses carry different implications for action, we conclude by considering their varied utility and applicability for health promotion.

Keywords: well-being; consumer culture

Journal Article.  4467 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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