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Wellbeing: a theoretical and empirical study

Hobbs, Georgina (2016) Wellbeing: a theoretical and empirical study. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

There is mounting theoretical evidence that wellbeing has been mobilised within a personal responsibility agenda (PRA). However, there is little empirical evidence to support this. Additionally, little is understood about the role of historical/linguistic factors in this mobilisation and their influence on mainstream representations of wellbeing. Research indicates current representations of wellbeing assign primacy to academic/professional conceptualisations neglecting lay conceptualisations. This thesis examines wellbeing through complementary theoretical and empirical investigations. This responds to a need to explore: the mobilisation of wellbeing through empirical investigation; how and why historical and linguistic factors contribute to this mobilisation; whether this mobilisation is assimilated into lay conceptualisations. This is important given wellbeing is a central focus of international and national healthcare policy, an influential concept in health discourse and widely utilised to underpin health and social care services. Three research strategies were utilised: a synthesis of theoretical evidence; a historical/linguistic contextualisation of wellbeing and qualitative analysis of participant data. Data were collected from existing literature, historical/linguistic sources and semi-structured interviews. Findings illustrated that historical/linguistic associations between wellbeing and personal responsibility have facilitated its mobilisation within a PRA. Findings also identified that participants rarely associated wellbeing with personal responsibility, which was primarily perceived as the responsibility of the state, despite widespread dissemination of agentic representations of wellbeing. Findings suggest that wellbeing has been mobilised within a PRA for governance purposes. This has been achieved primarily through the promulgation of agentic representations of wellbeing. However, findings indicated a disjunction between participant and academic/professional conceptualisations of responsibility for wellbeing. This contributes to the revitalised debate about representations of wellbeing and the division of responsibility for wellbeing between the individual and the state.

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