Measuring things is deeply rooted in us humans. In psychology, new measurements are constantly being developed, which allows the field to be systematic, objective, and scientifically rigorous in its examination of human behavior and mental processes. It also helps us effectively come up with behavior change interventions. In order to do this, we need to understand how different aspects, that influence our behavior and our well-being, interact. That said, it's exciting to see a new definition and measurement on the radar; one that measures environmental well-being.
In finance, there exists a measure of financial well-being. Even though there’s still an ongoing discussion about the exact meaning of financial well-being1 , the current measurement has been valuable, and given us a better understanding of what it encompasses, which in turn has helped us understand how it relates to financial behavior as well as helped us come up with interventions to improve it among people. This has been important, not least in the rocky economic times we live in. As we all know, another global issue that is increasingly affecting people's lives and well-being, directly or indirectly, is the climate crisis.
In a recent study conducted by researchers at the JEDI Lab at Linköping University, the researchers aimed to study what affects people's environmental well-being and how it relates to environmentally friendly behavior.2 Specifically, they looked at how self-control correlates with environmental well-being. To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and create a more sustainable world, a change is required at both a societal and individual level. The latter requires a change in lifestyle and to achieve this, people must exercise self-control. Previous studies have shown that people with a high level of self-control have a better ability to visualize future events, which makes self-control an interesting characteristic to look at in relation to environmentally friendly behavior.3
To study this, the researchers developed a measure for environmental well-being. They used existing scales that measure financial anxiety and financial security (Fünfgeld & Wang, 2009; Strömbäck, Skagerlund & Västfjäll, 2020), two aspects that make up our current definition of financial well-being, but adapted it to fit the environmental context. Participants were also asked about their pro-environmental behaviors, gender, age, political orientation, and self-control.
The results showed a positive relationship between self-control and environmental well-being and a weaker, yet positive, correlation between self-control and certain pro-environmental behaviors. Furthermore, respondents who identified themselves as politically left were shown to have lower environmental well-being, while men had higher environmental well-being, but behaved less pro-environmentally. Thus, the results suggest that political orientation was a better predictor of positive environmental behavior than subjective self-control.6
“...the measurement developed in the study will help us better understand what environmental well-being is and how it’s connected to sound environmental behaviors…”
The study results are of course valuable in itself, but the measurement developed in the study will help us better understand what environmental well-being is and how it’s connected to sound environmental behaviors in forthcoming studies. By measuring and understanding various psychological factors, researchers and practitioners can more successfully develop interventions and policies designed to increase sustainable and healthy behaviors– which should be the main goal of all behavior change interventions.
1 Riitsalu, L., Sulg, R., Lindal, H., Remmik, M., & Vain, K. (2023). From Security to Freedom- The Meaning of Financial Well-being Changes with Age. Journal of family and economic issues, 1–14. doi: 10.1007/s10834-023-09886-z
2 Strömbäck, C., Lindkvist, E., & Västfjäll, D. (2023). Individual differences in environmental wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviors explained by self-control. Sec. Environmental Psychology, 14. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1088682
3 Strömbäck, C., Lindkvist, E., & Västfjäll, D. (2023). Individual differences in environmental wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviors explained by self-control. Sec. Environmental Psychology, 14. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1088682
4 Fünfgeld, B., and Wang, M. (2009). Attitudes and behaviour in everyday finance: Evidence from Switzerland. Int. J. Bank Mark, 27, 108–128. doi: 10.1108/02652320910935607
5Strömbäck, C., Skagerlund, K., Västfjäll, D., and Tinghög, G. (2020). Subjective self-control but not objective measures of executive functions predicts financial behavior and well-being. J. Behav. Experiment. Finan, 27(100339).
6 Strömbäck, C., Lindkvist, E., & Västfjäll, D. (2023). Individual differences in environmental wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviors explained by self-control. Sec. Environmental Psychology, 14. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1088682