Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: a complementary strategy for improving national mental health

Am Psychol. 2007 Feb-Mar;62(2):95-108. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.2.95.


This article summarizes the conception and diagnosis of the mental health continuum, the findings supporting the two continua model of mental health and illness, and the benefits of flourishing to individuals and society. Completely mentally healthy adults--individuals free of a 12-month mental disorder and flourishing--reported the fewest missed days of work, the fewest half-day or greater work cutbacks, the healthiest psychosocial functioning (i.e., low helplessness, clear goals in life, high resilience, and high intimacy), the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, the lowest number of chronic physical diseases with age, the fewest health limitations of activities of daily living, and lower health care utilization. However, the prevalence of flourishing is barely 20% in the adult population, indicating the need for a national program on mental health promotion to complement ongoing efforts to prevent and treat mental illness. Findings reveal a Black advantage in mental health as flourishing and no gender disparity in flourishing among Whites.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Racial Groups / psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology