The experimental research on well-being since 2004

Woody Caan (RSPH, Duxford, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Publication date: 21 December 2015



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the claim by the Chief Medical Officer for England that “There is virtually no robust, peer-reviewed evidence to support a ‘well-being’ approach to mental health”.


Secondary research using research literature from two widely available databases, Scopus and Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts. Randomised controlled trials were sought that focused on “well-being” (including well-being or wellness), from 2004 to the present.


With both clinical samples and non-clinical populations, a variety of experimental trials were found. Studies were identified with both positive benefits and no benefits from intervention. The most numerous type of paper reported positive benefits for clinical patients.

Research limitations/implications

Only a single reader classified the studies in this investigation, so the inter-rater reliability may be limited. Only two databases were searched. However, future work (such as that in progress by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing) may find an abundance of evidence on mental well-being.

Practical implications

In many settings, well-being can improve after intervention.

Social implications

What is measured as “well-being” may need to take into account the perspective of the specific population being studied.


This small-scale study was undertaken to inform policy in the new Public Mental Health Network.



Caan, W. (2015), "The experimental research on well-being since 2004", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 211-213.

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