The literature is very clear that economic factors are critical to wellbeing. Almost all research states the necessity of income, financial security or productive assets. Nearly all the literature also looks at personal relationships as aspects of wellbeing, which are here categorised as part of the enabling environment. Empowerment is usually seen as agency, the ability to utilise those resources or relationships. The contribution of assets and the enabling environment together to wellbeing is the clearest relationship, with empowerment an outlier with unclear interactions.
The literature is unclear on the relationship between empowerment and wellbeing. Both are highly contested terms. Some scholars see wellbeing, particularly psychological wellbeing, as a contributor to empowerment, while others see empowerment as leading to wellbeing. The WeD group emphasises both wellbeing and empowerment as processes rather than outcomes. The literature is in general agreement that autonomy, competence and agency are crucial aspects contributing to wellbeing, as these determine how people can exercise choice and control.
Enabling environment and wellbeing:
- Relationships: personal relationships are highlighted throughout the literature as essential to wellbeing. This is because social support reduces stress, provides a buffer for negative events, and enhances self-esteem. Powerful clientelistic relationships also mediate access to resources. Wellbeing is mediated by gender, marital status and other social factors.
- Violence and security: improvements in safety and security clearly lead to improved wellbeing. There is evidence that they also contribute to economic security. Safety is closely related to social capital, as participation in community networks helps people construct protection against violence.
- Work: the ability to work contributes to wellbeing or illbeing, mediated through social class, risk and rights.
- Assets and wellbeing: Assets, or resources, are central to wellbeing in themselves, and as a means towards wellbeing.
Resources contribute to wellbeing by meeting the needs people have identified as crucial to their wellbeing. People must therefore not only have access to resources but also control over them. Assets are also the gateway to accessing services, and have a major effect on how people think about themselves and their lives and how they participate in society.