What Is The Focus Of Worksite Wellness Today? – A Series – Wellness As A Concept (Consider This!)

We call our programs worksite wellness. But are they really wellness programs?

Our examination of the definitions of wellness did not result in our finding a commonly accepted definition. Models are used as one way to depict a construct. So what can we learn from the existing, published wellness models?

Wellness Models

Here are some examples of wellness models I have been able to locate and examine:

National Wellness Institute’s model of wellness consists of six dimensions: physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and occupational.

Dr. Don Ardell put forth a wellness model in 1977 he called High Level Wellness consisting of five dimensions: self-responsibility, nutritional awareness, stress management, physical fitness and environmental sensitivity. In 1982, his model evolved to include: self-responsibility, nutritional awareness, physical fitness, meaning and purpose, relationship dynamics and emotional intelligence. In the early 1990’s, his model further evolved to include three domains (physical, mental and meaning and purpose), with 14 skill areas spread between them. In 2010, Dr. Ardell released a new model he described as REAL Wellness consisting of: reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty.

In the early 1990’s, Sweeney and Witmer put forth their wellness model called The Wheel of Wellness model consisting of five interrelated life tasks: spirituality, self-direction, work and leisure, friendship, and love. This model continued to evolve until 2003, when Sweeney and Meyers put forth their wellness model called The Indivisible Self consisting of five factors: physical, creative, coping, social and essential.

National Council on Aging Wellness Model consists of six dimensions: emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and vocational.

The University of California at Riverside promotes a seven dimension model consisting of: social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical.

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln promotes a seven element wellness model as well: intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, social, occupational and environmental.

The wellness model of the National Wellness Institute of Australia depicts wellness as having nine interrelated core values consisting of: intellectual, physical, emotional, work, social, spiritual, environmental, financial and cultural.

The University of Illinois’ wellness model consists of seven dimensions: emotional, social, physical, spiritual, environmental and occupational

The San José State University model of wellness depicts eight dimensions of wellness: physical, social, emotional, environmental, occupational, multicultural, spiritual and intellectual.

In the 1970’s, John Travis, MD, put forth a model with 12 dimensions: self-responsibility and love, breathing, sensing, eating, moving, feeling, thinking, communicating, playing and working, intimacy, finding meaning and transcending.

The Murphy-Moller Wellness Model depicts 5 dimensions: biological health, attitudes/behaviors, spirituality, environment/relationships and social Support.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, portrays wellness as having eight dimensions: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.

It is important to remember that models are just visual representations or tools for depicting a definition or construct. Models only reflect the model creator understands.

An interesting note of wellness trivia is that while the concept of wellness originated within the realm of physical health and medicine, the concept has been readily adopted by the counseling and addiction recovery communities. This must say something about the wellness construct.

What I find most interesting, though, is that neither the definitions nor models of wellness ever describe or depict wellness as just being about physical health, they are always multi-dimensional with the comment being made that the dimensions are always inter-related. So why is it that within the field of worksite wellness, wellness has become just about physical health?

Are worksite wellness programs really about the health and wellness of employees, or is their purpose just about money?


Myers, J. E., Sweeney, T. J., & Witmer, M. (2000). Counseling for wellness: A holistic model for treatment planning. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78(3), 251-266.

Myers, J. E., and Sweeney, T. J. (2005). The indivisible self: An evidence-based model of wellness. Journal of Individual Psychology, 61(3), 269-279.

Pungky Dwiasmoro Hiswardhani

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