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Difference between wellbeing, emotional health, mental health and emotional intelligence

What makes emotional health different to mental health?

Person meditating

The term “mental health” is usually used within the context of mental illness or mental ill-health.

Mental health support predominantly adopts a targeted approach, centred around individuals who have, or are at risk of developing, mental health problems.

Emotional health, on the other hand, adopts a universal approach. It acknowledges the benefits of each of the emotional health assets for everyone, regardless of whether or not they have poor mental health or wellbeing.

What makes emotional health different to wellbeing?

Wellbeing refers to a person’s emotional state at a given moment in time. Positive wellbeing is the absence of difficult emotions and the presence of positive ones.

In contrast, emotional health refers to the underlying set of skills, beliefs and habits of mind that equip an individual to manage the ups and downs of day-to-day life, build positive relationships, and fulfil their potential. These skills are all essential for supporting wellbeing but do not necessarily ensure positive wellbeing.

For example, experiencing the death of a loved one will affect a person’s emotional wellbeing. They will likely experience a whole range of difficult emotions and this is an emotionally healthy response. Their underlying emotional health in this situation may not change. However, having a good emotional health will help an individual recognise and manage the emotions surrounding bereavement.

What makes emotional health different to emotional intelligence?

There are substantial overlaps between the seven assets of emotional health and the five areas identified in Daniel Goleman’s construct of emotional intelligence. However, unlike emotional intelligence, emotional health includes beliefs: an individual’s beliefs both about themselves and about others will impact on how the other emotional health assets are enacted.

Emotional intelligence also views the five areas as a set of within-individual characteristics whereas the underlying principle of emotional health is that emotional health is based on the interaction between the individual and their wider psycho-social environment(s).

An individual’s environmental context will not only help shape and develop their social and emotional competencies but will also either enable or disable existing assets. Emotional health support, therefore, involves creating an emotionally healthy environment in which everyone can thrive.


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