Direction: happiness: improving well-being of vulnerable groups

Laura Anne Weiss

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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In the PhD-thesis ‘Direction: Happiness. Improving well-being of vulnerable groups’, the effects of the Happiness Route, a positive psychology intervention, were examined. The intervention is directed at a vulnerable group with an accumulation of risk factors for a low well-being; lonely people with health problems and a low socio-economic status. The Happiness Route is based on self-determination theory. Its supports the need for autonomy, competence and relatedness. It was examined how to improve well-being for this vulnerable group with the help of counselor to find a passion and act on it. The happiness-based approach of the Happiness Route fits the reorientation in social- and healthcare policies towards self-management and empowerment of citizens. A meta-analysis showed that psychological well-being can be enhanced through behavioral interventions. In a randomized controlled trial, 108 participants were randomly assigned to either the intervention or an active control group, where participants received traditional problem-based care. The Happiness Route was as effective as the problem-based approach in promoting well-being and decreasing depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness. Yet satisfaction with the treatment was significantly higher in the Happiness Route than in the control group, concerning the relationship with the counselor, the judgment of home visits, and the experienced effects. Qualitative research on the experience of participants showed that the Happiness Route can initiate change and that people can profit from the intervention. Participants’ perceptions of the intervention were examined in an interview study with 20 former participants. Participants experienced change in four prototypical ways that could be described well in terms of self-determination theory. The counselor and activity participants chose seemed to be crucial for change to occur. The experience of participants is that the Happiness Route contributed to their well-being by fulfilling basic psychological needs. The intervention is best offered to people who have a low psychological need satisfaction. Based on the results, we conclude that the happiness-based approach is worth using as a complement to the traditional focus on problems and illness. It can bring more balance into the care for vulnerable groups, who need happiness as much as everyone else.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Westerhof, Gerben J., Supervisor
  • Bohlmeijer, Ernst T., Advisor
Award date13 Oct 2016
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4181-7
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2016


  • METIS-317914
  • IR-101310


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