What do we mean by mental wellbeing?

Mental wellbeing can be described as a combination of how we feel (our emotions and life satisfaction) and how we function (relationships with others, personal control, purpose in life and independence). It is something that affects everyone, old and young, and anyone can experience good or poor mental wellbeing. We know that the following factors can influence our mental wellbeing positively and negatively.

Risk and Protective Factors for Mental Wellbeing1


Risk factors

  • Poverty
  • Discrimination
  • Violence, abuse or neglect
  • Peer rejection and isolation
  • Stressful life events
  • Lack of family support
  • Poor physical health/long-term condition

Protective factors

  • Economic security
  • Empowerment
  • Feelings of security, mastery and control
  • Positive interactions with others
  • Physical activity
  • Stable and supportive family environments
  • Healthy diet and lifestyle

Over time, experiencing poor mental wellbeing can contribute to the development of mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Actions which address the risk factors and support the development of the protective factors highlighted above can make mental health problems less likely to occur2.


  • 1 Adapted from World Health Organisation (WHO) (2004) Prevention of mental disorders: effective interventions and policy options: summary report
  • 2 Op. cit