Vibrant discussions focusing on an array of themes related to well-being took place at the Well-Being 3.0 Conference on April 12 in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.
Discussions included issues and research findings related to the subject, how to measure and analyze well-being, and the need to use this knowledge to develop innovative solutions to improve physical and mental well-being globally.
Organized by Giveness International and Yeey Inc., the conference had 13 sponsors. Among them were Lifull Co., a real estate information services company led by President and CEO Takashi Inoue, and the Lifull Foundation, led by Representative Director Yoshiki Ishikawa, who specializes in preventive medicine, behavioral science and computational creativity.
As Lifull’s founder, Inoue has made it the company’s mission and vision to “make every life full” and expects the foundation to provide services that could bring change to every field of society. The foundation conducts, supports and promotes research on well-being through collaborations with enterprises and academic institutions.
The six-hour event saw presentations from over 20 guest speakers, including Unilever Japan’s Chief Human Resource Officer Yuka Shimada, former President of the American Psychological Association and professor of the University of Pennsylvania Martin E.P. Seligman and University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener.
The panelists exchanged ideas throughout seven sessions; in addition to how to measure and understand an intangible and subjective state of being, speakers addressed the possibility of practical and multidisciplinary development of relevant research.
During his presentation, Ishikawa mentioned the importance of accelerating data collection processes to use findings to drive progress. However, he also pointed out that the quality and accuracy of such data is essential.
He referenced an assessment method used by Gallup Inc., a major American analytics company known for its extensive public opinion polls. The Gallup poll’s criteria is made up of three aspects: positive, negative and a life evaluation.
“Gallup is the only company that conducts a public poll that measures well-being,” he said.
While this first-ever international poll of responses from the public has yielded some results, Ishikawa emphasized that there could be room for reconsidering questions and redefining the measurement method.
“A metaphor of a ladder representing the scale of zero to 10 was used in the survey to measure one’s life evaluation. But is it appropriate as a measurement method for all cultures? This is the kind of question that should be dealt with in future research,” he said.
Ishikawa also explained that so far, 70 percent of all data on subjective well-being comes from Europe and North America. For the sake of ensuring diversity in future studies, he stressed the importance of including more non-Western researchers in the field to address cultural differences.
In response to this, Diener commented that frequency, as opposed to intensity, should be taken into consideration. “What defines happiness is how much of the time you are feeling more positive than negative — this is universal,” he said.
Inoue said what the foundation hopes to do is to establish well-being as an academic field of study. In order for this idea to take root in the world, he explained that universally shared perceptions of well-being need to be built. Measuring well-being without bias toward things such as country, culture, gender or age is also necessary.
“I would be thrilled to see businesses related to well-being flourish in various places around the world,” Inoue said.
Diener commented that businesses in general are starting to recognize the importance of well-being among their workers as well. “In a time when robots and artificial intelligence can take on simple tasks, it is becoming more imperative for companies to keep creative and innovative people who can take initiative,” he said. “Companies experience a greater advantage when people have a positive sense of well-being” he said.
Seligman commented that although almost every aspect of life such as life expectancy, literacy, democracy and access to clean water has improved in the last 200 years, it is unclear if people have become happier.
He believes it is important to question why society, especially younger generations, don’t seem to appreciate humanity’s progress throughout history. Seligman also noted that scientific findings are born from starting conversations about topics that have never been widely addressed before.