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Resource Education Toolkit CO:RE at EUN Published: 14 Dec 2022

Wellbeing and mental health: What is the difference?

This resource is based on the CO:RE Short Report "Effects of digital technology on adolescents’ well-being: The integrative model (iMEW)" by Hayriye Gulec, Adéla Lokajová and David Smahel [1] and the book “Digital Media and Child and Adolescent Mental Health” by O’Reilly et al. (2021) [2].

Before we can look into how well-being might be influenced by the use of digital technology, it is important to explain what well-being is. Well-being is a general term that refers to how well individuals are doing in life [2]. It comprises social, physical, and subjective dimensions of well-being. Physical well-being consists of health perception, the absence of disease, and physical functionality; psychological well-being includes the presence of positive and the absence of negative affects; and social well-being covers the quality of relationships with others and includes social belonging, social acceptance, and social integration [3].

Subjective wellbeing refers to the "subjective evaluations of one's life, including both cognitive evaluations and affective feelings". [2, p. 3]

It is important for everyone to have a good level of wellbeing because it will help to cope with life, contribute to society, and achieve the best of their ability [4].

Wellbeing is sometimes confused with mental health. However, they mean different things. Mental health can be understood as a continuum between positive mental states, i.e., psychological functioning and normal emotions, and mental health conditions, those with a clinically diagnosable condition [2, p 43]. Positive mental health is essential if children are to flourish and lead rich and fulfilling lives. It provides a solid foundation for all aspects of development. It is therefore important to pay enough attention to children and young people’s mental health [5], remain alert and to offer the necessary support when needed.

Many things can contribute to a child or young person being mentally well. These aspects are relevant to all children and young people, not just those with difficulties or vulnerabilities. They include physical health and well-being, nutrition and exercise, family, relationships, education, leisure time and social life, and a sense of confidence and self-esteem [6].

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  1. image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Gulec, H., Lokajova, A. & Smahel, D. (2022): Effects of digital technology on adolescents’ well-being: The integrative model (iMEW). CO:RE Short Report Series on Key Topics. Hamburg: Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI); CO:RE - Children Online: Research and Evidence.

  2. O’Reilly, M., Dogra, N., Levine, D., & Donoso, V. (2021). Digital media and child and adolescent mental health: A practical guide to understanding the evidence. Sage. 

  3. World Health Organization. (‎2001)‎. Basic documents, 43rd ed. World Health Organization.

  4. World Health Organization. (‎2004)‎. Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice: summary report / a report from the World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation and the University of Melbourne. World Health Organization.

  5. Kessler, R., Amminger, G., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, K., Lee, S., & Ustun, T. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: A review of recent literature. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 20, 359–364.

  6. World Health Organization. (2014a). Mental Health: A State of Wellbeing. Geneva: WHO

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European Schoolnet
European Schoolnet
Educational Stakeholders

The team at European Schoolnet develops an educational toolkit that makes existing research on the impact of technological transformations on children and youth known and usable for educational stakeholders in Europe and beyond. In doing so, they engage with educational stakeholders in consultation processes to understand how the educational toolkit can be most useful to support existing educational and learning processes. Furthermore, the team provides a series of mechanisms to coordinate and support the implementation of empirical evidence in processes of school development and teachers’ training.

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