‘Wellbeing is shown in our appearance, the food we eat, what we wear, and what we buy’: Embodying wellbeing in Ghana
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In the post war era, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been extensively used as the primary indicator of population wellbeing. More recently, population wellbeing has increasingly been seen as more than merely the value of economic activity undertaken within a given period of time. Rather, several alternative measures have been proposed to correct some of the weaknesses of GDP. Yet these measures focus primarily on countries in the so-called developed world and ignore geographical variations in socio-cultural, ecological and collective discourses that accompany the 'good life'. We have embarked on a larger research program to develop a global index of wellbeing (GLOWING) through the exploration of national wellbeing in low and middle income countries (LMICs). As such, this paper explores public perceptions and the meanings attached to population wellbeing in the Ghanaian context. Informed by eco-social and capabilities theoretical frameworks, we conducted focus group discussions and key informant interviews to explore participants' conceptions of wellbeing. Results reveal that the descriptions or definitions that people ascribe to wellbeing are complex, socially and context dependent, and comprise the embodiment of both material and immaterial circumstances. The results, therefore, support the view that national wellbeing is complex and multi-dimensional and reflect the lived experiences of people and communities. Furthermore, although the specific domains are similar to existing frameworks such as the Canadian Index of Wellbeing and OECD better life indices, the constituents of these domains differed in the Ghanaian context, underscoring the importance of place in the conceptualization and measurement of wellbeing.
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