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Concept: Emotional Well-Being: High-Priority Research Networks

Project Concept Review

Council Date: October 5, 2018

Program Officer: Merav Sabri, Ph.D.; Dave Clark, Dr.P.H.


Emotional well-being has been defined as an overall positive state of one’s emotions, life satisfaction, sense of meaning and purpose, and ability to pursue self-defined goals. Elements of emotional well-being include a sense of balance in emotion, thoughts, social relationships, and pursuits. The relative importance of each construct will vary across subpopulations and developmental stages. Currently, fundamental understanding of the components of emotional well-being as well as the interventions that promote well-being development, as a mediator or as an end, is lacking.

In April 2018, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), in collaboration with other National Institutes of Health (NIH) institutes, centers, and offices (National Institute on Aging, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health), sponsored a roundtable discussion with the following goals: (1) to gain a deeper insight into the existing research on the role of emotional well-being in health; (2) to advance research in this area and create a trans-NIH research program focused on developing, testing, and implementing intervention strategies to promote emotional well-being. [View the roundtable meeting report -- Emotional Well-Being: Emerging Insights and Questions for Future Research.]

The roundtable participants presented and discussed 10 models of success that produced better health outcomes through promotion of emotional resilience. They include cases in which a component of emotional well-being is identified as the intervention target, or a change in emotional well-being is found to be a mediator of a change in health. They also include interventions in which improvement of some aspect of emotional well-being itself was the desired outcome. Some examples of models of success include Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) for teachers, active experiencing training for episodic memory recall, the Strong African American Families program (SAAF), and the Health Enhancement Program (HEP).

Through workshop presentations and discussion, research gaps and opportunities were noted that included a need to (1) increase the understanding of the fundamental constituents of well-being across the lifespan and among various subgroups, (2) refine and implement scientifically based prevention strategies to enhance emotional well-being, and (3) develop measurement methodologies to optimize and scale up well-being interventions for treatment and prevention of burnout, stress, pain, and mental health symptoms in at-risk populations (e.g., caregivers, military personnel, minority groups, individuals with substance abuse), as well as children and adolescents.

Purpose of Proposed Program

This proposed initiative aims to solicit applications that focus on developing resources by refining and testing key concepts that will advance and further support the study of emotional well-being. This grant funding initiative will support research networks through meetings, conferences, small-scale pilot research, multidisciplinary cross training (such as intensive workshops, summer institutes, or visiting scholar programs), and information dissemination to foster the growth and development of research in the specified priority areas listed below.


Network applications are restricted to the following research topics of interest:

  1. Ontology of emotional well-being. Determine the neurobiological and behavioral components of emotional well-being across the lifespan and for various subgroups (e.g., chronic pain patients).
  2. Mechanisms of emotional well-being. Identify and develop models of potential mechanisms of emotional well-being based on biological, neurobiological, psychological, behavioral, and social factors using mechanistic and other research approaches (e.g., identify an intervention target, identify/develop experimental methods/measures that engage the target, validate the target) as needed.
  3. Biomarkers of emotional well-being. Identify biomarkers and develop predictive models for interventions to promote individual-based emotional well-being.
  4. Prevention research. Investigate the impact of emotional well-being from early childhood through older adults (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, child development, pain and/or opioid misuse) and in at-risk populations (e.g., caregivers, military personnel, minority groups). Develop and pilot test prevention strategies aimed at enhancing various aspects of emotional well-being.
  5. Technology and outcome measure development for mechanistic studies. Identify and validate objective measures (behavioral and physiological) using technological advancement (e.g., wearables) and their relationship to subjective self-report measures. Develop and validate patient-reported outcome measures, measures of social interactions (i.e., social connectedness, bonding), or measures focused on the impact of culture and environment, for the purposes of assessing these aspects of emotional well-being.