Skip to main content
[ "article:topic", "license:ccby", "authorname:riecklundin" ]
Medicine LibreTexts

2.11 Factors That Influence Psychological Well-Being

  • Page ID
  • Infancy and Early Childhood

    There is a strong body of evidence to show the importance of attachment by neonates to their mothers or other primary caregivers for subsequent social and emotional development. Separation from the primary caregiver - due for example to parental absence or rejection - leads to anxiety, stress and insecurity. Post-natal depression among new mothers can likewise contribute to sub-optimal attachment and development. Parents who have difficulties in bonding, have limited skills or exhibit negative attitudes place their children at increased risk of exposure to stress and behavioral problems. Other important risks to physical and cognitive development in infancy and early childhood include maltreatment and neglect (by parents and other caregivers), malnutrition and infectious or parasitic diseases.

    Individual attributes and behaviors

    These relate to a person's innate and learned ability to deal with thoughts and feelings and to manage him/herself in daily life ('emotional intelligence').  It is also the capacity to deal with the social world around by partaking in social activities, taking responsibilities or respecting the views of others ('social intelligence'). An individual’s mental health state can also be influenced by genetic and biological factors; that is, determinants that persons are born or endowed with, including chromosomal abnormalities (e.g. Down's syndrome) and intellectual disability caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol or oxygen deprivation at birth.

    Social and economic circumstances

    The capacity for people to develop and flourish is deeply influenced by their immediate social surroundings – including their opportunity to engage positively with family members, friends or colleagues, and earn a living for themselves and their families – and also by the socioeconomic circumstances in which they find themselves. Restricted or lost opportunities to gain an education and income are especially pertinent socio-economic factors. 

    Environmental factors

    The wider sociocultural and geopolitical environment in which people live can also affect an individual’s, household’s or community’s mental health status, including levels of access to basic commodities and services (water, essential health services, the rule of law), exposure to predominating cultural beliefs, attitudes or practices, as well as by social and economic policies formed at the national level; for example, the on-going global financial crisis is expected to have significant mental health consequences, including increased rates of suicide and harmful alcohol use. Discrimination, social or gender inequality and conflict are examples of adverse structural determinants of mental well-being.


    Personality measures turn out to be good predictors of your health, your sexual promiscuity, your likelihood of divorce, how happy you typically are—even your taste in paintings. Personality is a much better predictor of these things than social class or age. The origin of these differences is in part innate. That is to say, when people are adopted at birth and brought up by new families, their personalities are more similar to their blood relatives than to the ones they grew up with. The differences begin to emerge early in life and are surprisingly stable across the decades. This is not to say that people cannot change, but major change is the exception rather than the rule. Personality differences tend to manifest themselves through the quick, gut-feeling, intuitive, and emotional systems of thehuman mind. The slower, rational, deliberate systems show less variation in output from person to person. Deliberate rational strategies can be used to over-ride intuitive patterns of response, and this is how people wishing to change their personalities or feelings have to go about it.

    So what are the major ways personalities can differ? The dominant approach is to think of the space of possible personalities as being defined by a number of dimensions. Each person can be given a location in the space by their scores on all the different dimensions. Virtually all theories agree on two of the main dimensions, though they differ on how many additional ones they recognize.

    Five factors

    • Openness to experience: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety a person has. It is also described as the extent to which a person is imaginative or independent and depicts a personal preference for a variety of activities over a strict routine. High openness can be perceived as unpredictability or lack of focus. Moreover, individuals with high openness are said to pursue selfactualization specifically by seeking out in tense, euphoric experiences. Conversely, those with low openness seek to gain fulfillment through perseverance and are characterized as pragmatic and data-driven—sometimes even perceived to be dogmatic and closed-minded. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret and contextualize the openness factor.
    • Conscientiousness: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior. High conscientiousness is often perceived as stubbornness and obsession. Low conscientiousness is associated with flexibility and spontaneity, but can also appear as sloppiness and lack of reliability.
    • Extraversion: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness. High extraversion is often perceived as attention-seeking, and domineering. Low extraversion causes a reserved, reflective personality, which can be perceived as aloof or self-absorbed.
    • Agreeableness: (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/detached). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others. It is also a measure of one's trusting and helpful nature, and whether a person is generally well-tempered or not. High agreeableness is often seen as naive or submissive. Low agreeableness personalities are often competitive or challenging people, which can be seen as argumentativeness or untrustworthiness.
    • Neuroticism: (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control and is sometimes referred to by its low pole, "emotional stability". A high need for stability manifests itself as a stable and calm personality, but can be seen as uninspiring and unconcerned. A low need for stability causes a reactive and excitable personality, often very dynamic individuals, but they can be perceived as unstable or insecure.

    Assess yourself! This is an interactive version of the IPIP Big-Five Factor Markers, a measure of the big five personality traits: Big 5 Personality Test