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NCCIH Research Blog

New Report Reflects NCCIH Research Interest in Emotional Well-being

October 17, 2018

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Research

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

Today, I’m pleased to tell you about an exciting new direction at NCCIH for advancing our prevention research portfolio.

One of the objectives in both NIH’s and NCCIH’s current strategic plans is to “foster health promotion and disease prevention.” At the Center, we pursue this objective by seeking to build knowledge of how complementary approaches could be useful across the life span to encourage better self-care, a healthy lifestyle, and the sense of well-being. Wellness, according to surveys, is a major reason that people turn to complementary approaches.

An aspect of this topic on which there is widespread interest, yet a lack of fundamental scientific knowledge, is emotional well-being. What is meant by that term? According to one report, it’s “an overall positive state of a person’s emotions, life satisfactions, sense of meaning and purpose, and ability to pursue self-defined goals. [The] elements include a sense of balance in emotion, thoughts, social relationships, and pursuits.”1 These constructs and their relative importance can vary across different population subgroups and stages of life.

As part of NCCIH’s initial exploration of this topic, we cosponsored, with the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, a roundtable meeting in April 2018. Our planning partners were four other components of NIH (NIA, NICHD, NIDA, and NIMH), and our cochairs were two leading experts, Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dr. Bruce McEwen of the Rockefeller University. You may find the meeting report—just posted!—of interest. Participants discussed the state of the science, identified research opportunities and gaps for NIH’s consideration, and proposed a strategy for moving the field forward (e.g., a trans-NIH research program has been created). Ten current, successful models of programs fostering resilience were examined.

Recently, in its October 5 meeting, the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health evaluated and approved a research concept to advance the study of emotional well-being, through the establishment of research networks. The aspects of emotional well-being of the most interest are its ontology; mechanisms; biomarkers; impact, especially with regard to prevention; and related outcome measurement and tools.

This research topic is a new one for us, but very important. It aligns with stakeholder and government interest in improving wellness and increasing resilience across the Nation. We look forward to updating you further, through this research blog, our email updates, and social media. You may also find our Wellness and Well-being portal (which includes a video clip of Drs. McEwen and Davidson) of interest.

For More Information

1Community Translational Science Team. Building a Public Health Model for Promoting Emotional Well-Being. Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles. 2016.


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