A Comparison of Wellness and Social Support Networks in Different Age Groups

Article excerpt

Individual wellness and social support were studied in 2 different age groups for the purpose of gaining insight into how these variables are affected by adult development. The individual wellness and social support networks of young adults and older adults were compared. Significant differences between the 2 populations were found in both individual wellness and social support network. The younger population scored higher than the older population on all wellness variables except self-care.


In the counseling field, the term wellness is the term most often used to represent a health care philosophy that can be defined as "oriented toward optimal health and well-being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live life more fully within the human and natural community" (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000, p. 252). The use of scientific knowledge to not only treat illness but to enhance health and promote individual growth and development is the underlying rubric of this philosophy. The promotion of individual growth and development has been central to the historical roots of the counseling profession (Gladding, 1996). One example of the continuing interest in approaching treatment from the perspective of individual growth and development is evident in the work of Ivey and Ivey (1998, 1999) on refraining the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text revision; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) as a diagnostic tool that provides a developmentally sensitive approach to treatment that is consistent with the counseling profession.

In psychology; wellness approaches have recently been termed "positive psychology," an area that is receiving attention regarding publication and research funding (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). A recent special issue of The American Psychologist (January 2000) was devoted to positive psychology. Further, the Templeton Foundation awarded four researchers $200,000 each for their work on ways of cultivating and building on human strengths (Elias, 2000). Positive psychology is being promoted as a mainstream movement with the establishment of three research centers that will focus on development within this discipline (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

The purpose of the current research study was to investigate the effects of age on wellness by comparing individuals in two age groups. There are two reasons that a comparison of individual wellness and social support networks between different age groups is needed. First, previous research on individual wellness and social support has demonstrated age-related differences with regard to social networks (Granello, 1999). Second, the psychological and social components of wellness are hypothesized to be influenced by the specific life course tasks of a particular stage of adult development. In other words, what "well" represents for someone of college age may be very different from what well indicates for a person who is middle age or older. It is hoped that by investigating wellness and social support in the context of developmental concepts such as life course, refinements to currently proposed models of adult wellness can be made.


Several authors have proposed theoretical models for counseling from a wellness orientation (Hettler, 1980; Opatz, 1984; Zimpfer, 1992). However, these models were developed with specific populations in mind, such as cancer patients or college students (Hermon & Hazler, 1999). A more broadly based framework for adults is the life-span model of wellness. This model has been proposed as a clinical method for counseling clients from a holistic and developmental perspective (Granello, 2000; Myers et al., 2000). The Adlerian concepts of social interest and striving are used as the theoretical basis of this model and provide a rationale to explain an individual's wish to achieve a wellness lifestyle (Sweeney & Witmer, 1991). …