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NCCIH Research Blog

Updates on NCCIH’s Interest in Emotional Well-Being Research

June 21, 2022

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Director

Division of Extramural Research

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

Emotional well-being is strongly linked with many aspects of health across the lifespan. For example, high levels of emotional well-being are associated with a 20 percent decrease in the risk of death from all causes among healthy people, a 70 percent decrease in the likelihood of starting smoking among high school girls, and a 36 percent decrease in the likelihood of developing mobility problems among older adults. 

As I have written before, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) considers emotional well-being a high-priority area for research. Studies on this topic align with our objective of fostering health promotion and disease prevention and with our interest in the health of the whole person, including the behavioral, social, and environmental domains as well as the biological domain. 

Research Networks on Emotional Well-Being

In 2018, NCCIH and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), in collaboration with other National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs), held a roundtable on emotional well-being that identified gaps and opportunities for future research. As an outgrowth of that roundtable, NIH funded six research networks, starting in 2021, to refine and test key concepts to advance the study of emotional well-being. NCCIH and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) have provided funding for the networks, with additional funding for some networks from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), OBSSR, and the Office of Disease Prevention (ODP). 

The individual networks focus on different topics, such as family well-being, the financial burdens associated with health care, or the relationship between brain aging and emotional well-being, but all six aim to facilitate transdisciplinary research through activities such as conferences, small-scale pilot research, and information dissemination. Several of the networks are exploring scientific questions related to the measurement of emotional well-being. 

The first annual meeting of the emotional well-being network leaders, held in March 2022, featured robust discussion of a range of topics, including:

  • Identification of mechanisms and biomarkers of emotional well-being
  • The need for common data elements, including relevant biological measures 
  • Expanding the concept of emotional well-being to include families, social settings, and culture 
  • Addressing other issues that co-occur with differences in emotional well-being, such as trauma, racism, and injustice
  • Overcoming barriers to research participation
  • Encouraging the scientific community to incorporate emotional well-being into their studies, training programs, and conferences
  • Expanding the emotional well-being research community through training and outreach

The networks will continue their work for another 3 years, and I look forward to sharing more about their activities.

Funding Opportunities for Emotional Well-Being Research

If you’re interested in incorporating emotional well-being into your research, you can take advantage of funding opportunities from NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research, NICHD, and NCCIH. If your interests fit within NCCIH’s mission, you may be particularly interested in our notice on fundamental science research on complementary and integrative health approaches (NOT-AT-21-006). You may also want to look at the grant mechanisms NIH provides for training new and early-stage investigators and even mid-career investigators who want to move into new areas of research. The training and career development page on our website gives details on these opportunities.

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