Community wellbeing

Posted on: 15/02/2022

Community wellbeing

This article is one of a series of amended extracts from Understanding Wellbeing (2011), edited by the late Anneyce Knight and the late Allan McNaught. There will continue to be developments in the field of wellbeing study, and the book and this material were published in pre-Covid times. Nevertheless, we felt it was worth publishing in this format, as a small contribution to the field.

Other articles in this series consider:

A definitional framework for wellbeing

Individual wellbeing

Family wellbeing

Societal wellbeing

There is no accepted, universally used definition of ‘community wellbeing’ or a definitive set of community wellbeing indicators in use. However, community wellbeing can be defined as a concept meant to recognise the social, cultural and psychological needs of people, their family, institutions and communities. This definition clearly extends beyond subjective wellbeing and implies consideration of health, poverty, transportation and economic activity, environmental and ecological factors. Kusel (1996) reflected on concerns as to how a community might heal itself to meet the needs of its residents. This ability is conceptualised as ‘community capacity’ composed of the following components:

  • physical capital.
  • human capital.
  • social capital.

Community capacity was identified as an important factor influencing community wellbeing, while Doak and Kusel (1996) define wellbeing as a function of both socio-economic skills and community capacity. Their work shows that communities with a high socio-economic status do not necessarily have a high community capacity.

Communities can be defined in many ways, and individuals and families can belong to many overlapping and distinctive communities at the same time. Identification with communities is a source of social, psychological, spiritual/moral and physical wellbeing to individuals and families. The wellbeing of particular communities could be adversely affected by external sources and events that can undermine their economic viability, physical security or psychological wellbeing to an extent that the community concerned will find it difficult to experience a high level of wellbeing or, in extremes, to survive.

‘Community’ has been found to be an influential factor in the success of an intervention, even for interventions purely on the family level, such as parenting classes. These community influences are thought to come about via:

  • institutional resources (the quality, quantity and diversity of the learning, recreational, social, educational and health resources of a community).
  • relationships and community ties.
  • norms and collective efficacy.


Doak, S. and Kusel, J. (1996) ‘Well-being in forest dependent communities, Part II: A social assessment focus’, in Sierra-Nevada Ecosystem Project: Final Report to Congress, Vol. II, Assessments and scientific basis for management options. Centers for Water and Wildland Resources, University of California.

Kusel, J. (1996) ‘Well-being in forest-dependent communities. Part I: a new approach’ (pp. 361–73), in Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project. Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project final report to Congress: status of the Sierra Nevada. Centers for Water and Wildland Resources, University of California.