Variations in risk and protective factors for life satisfaction and mental wellbeing with deprivation: a cross-sectional study

BMC Public Health. 2012 Jul 2;12:492. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-492.


Background: Improving life satisfaction (LS) and mental wellbeing (MWB) is important for better public health. Like other health issues, LS and MWB are closely related to deprivation (i.e. lack of resources). Developing public health measures that reduce inequalities in wellbeing requires an understanding of how factors associated with high and low LS and MWB vary with deprivation. Here, we examine such variations and explore which public health measures are likely to improve wellbeing while reducing related inequalities.

Methods: A self-administered questionnaire measuring LS and MWB was used with a cross-sectional sample of adults from the North West of England (n = 15,228). Within deprivation tertiles, analyses examined how demographics, health status, employment, relationships and behaviours (alcohol, tobacco, physical exercise) were associated with LS and MWB.

Results: Deprivation was strongly related to low LS and MWB with, for instance, 17.1% of the most deprived tertile having low LS compared to 8.9% in the most affluent. After controlling for confounders, across all deprivation tertiles, better self-assessed health status and being in a relationship were protective against low LS and MWB. Unemployment increased risks of low LS across all tertiles but only risks of low MWB in the deprived tertile. For this tertile, South Asian ethnicity and higher levels of exercise were protective against low MWB. In the middle tertile retired individuals had a reduced risk of low MWB and an increased chance of high LS even in comparison to those in employment. Alcohol's impact on LS was limited to the most deprived tertile where heavy drinkers were at most risk of poor outcomes.

Conclusions: In this study, positive outcomes for LS and MWB were strongly associated with lower deprivation and good health status. Public health measures already developed to promote these issues are likely to improve LS and MWB. Efforts to increase engagement in exercise are also likely to have positive impacts, particularly in deprived communities. The development of future initiatives that address LS and MWB must take account of variations in their risk and protective factors at different levels of deprivation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult