Well being intervention

Here’s the abstract for a presentation which our team gave at the 8th annual social work and social care conference on the 10th March 2021!


“Poor mental ill health is the biggest cause of long-term absence at work” (CIPD, 2020 p. 2) with three fifths of respondents in a recent survey reporting that there had been an increase in common mental health conditions (ibid, p 2). Sickness-absence, presenteeism, leaveism and work-related stress due to mental ill health may however be managed by staff who engage with their employer’s well being initiatives. This study assesses the efficacy of one initiative using an online assessment tool.

The study evaluated a training module, designed by the Mental Health Foundation and Unum (Mental Health Foundation, UNUM, Managing Mental Health in the Workplace, Module 7, n. d.) which aims to increase the well being of staff in the workplace by providing support when problems emerge. The training module was selected by three members of the research team who work in services. The module had not been evaluated before. The study addressed the following question:  did completing the work place module have an impact on staff mental health and well being? The study was a pilot with a subset of Praxis Care staff (n = 50). 

The research used an untreated control group quasi-experimental design with pre and post-tests with attention being paid to threats to validity (Cook and Campbell, 1979 pp. 103 – 112). Two groups of staff were selected. One group received training (the treatment) and one group not (the control). A pre and post-test questionnaire was administered to the treatment and control groups. The questionnaire included the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS, NHS Scotland, University of Warwick, University of Edinburgh, 2006). WEMWBS was selected to study the efficacy of the module because it is a valid and reliable measure of subjective well being and psychological functioning (Stewart-Brown et al 2008 pp. 4 – 8).   All participants were Praxis Care staff. The study received ethical approval from the Research Ethics Committee, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queen’s University of Belfast.

Analysis included exploratory data analysis, calculation of mean well being scores for both groups and the use of a range of parametric and non-parametric tests including analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) to detect treatment efficacy. Due regard was paid to p values and effect sizes (Ellis, 2010).  

Both the treatment and the control groups reported lower mean well being scores at post-test than pre-test with the mean well being score for the intervention group declining at a faster rate. The module therefore did not have an impact on staff well being.  All mean well being scores – irrespective of group or time point – were close to the mean well being scores in larger studies.

Social care providers are now increasingly developing health and well being strategies. Such strategies need to be assessed.  This study used a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the efficacy of an untested well being intervention. Although this particular intervention was ineffective, the study has implications for how to conduct research studies in online settings and for how to deliver well being programmes.

Bunting, G., McIlvenny, L., Webb, P. (2021) Managing mental health & well being in the workplace: assessment of a well being intervention. In Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Board, Building a Research Community ‘Ongoing learning: human, digital and organisational’, 8th Annual Social Work and Social Care in Practice Conference, Virtual, 10th March 2021.

The Wellbeing of Nations

Allin, P., Hand, D.J. (2014) The Wellbeing of Nations: Meaning, Motive and Measurement 

This book shows how it is possible to measure national wellbeing, as well as explaining the motivation for doing so. With a title which pays homage to Adam Smith’s classic, The Wealth of Nations, Allin and Hand explain why it is important to move beyond economic measures like GDP in order to measure wellbeing – an objective in which they succeed admirably.

By drawing on research from disciplines as diverse as philosophy, economics, psychology, social policy and journalism, the authors convincingly argue that one can measure wellbeing. Indeed, their assessment is a welcome antidote to the scepticism of those who believe that economic measures are all that matter.

One might imagine that this book will primarily appeal to official statisticians, who may be tasked with collecting national wellbeing data, but such a view would be unwarranted.

Admittedly, there is much discussion of the role of national statistics offices, and much of the book seems to be a dialogue between the authors and prominent theorists, with the recommendations of the Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi Commission being particularly noteworthy throughout.

However, this book will appeal to a broad audience. Although there are brief discussions of technical topics like measurement theory, the book will be useful to researchers across a range of disciplines and the interested general reader.

Review originally published in Reviews. Significance, 12:3 44{45. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2015.00833.x