Dr. Richard Davidson describes sustainable well-being as the ratio of psychological well-being to environmental footprint. He has studied the systematic training of the mind through meditation, finding that it changes the brain in beneficial ways, improving well-being.
Other scientists also use the term:
Sustainable well-being, in my lexicon, entails pursuing sustainable development to achieve well-being where it is now most conspicuously absent, as well as converting to a sustainable basis the maintenance and expansion of well-being where it already exists but is being provided by unsustainable means.
— John P. Holdren, Professor of Environmental Policy and 2006-7 president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being
Slightly different meanings are sometimes used.
The head of the Australian Treasury gave an economic perspective on the term:
Sustainable well-being requires that at least the current level of well-being be maintained for future generations.
In this regard, we can consider sustainability as requiring, relative to their populations, that each generation bequeath a stock of capital - the productive base for well-being - that is at least as large as the stock it inherited.
— Dr Martin Parkinson,W Secretary of the Department of the Treasury of Australia, c. Aug 2011
Property "Has author" (as page type) with input value "Dr Martin Parkinson,W Secretary of the Department of the Treasury of Australia, c. Aug 2011" contains invalid characters or is incomplete and therefore can cause unexpected results during a query or annotation process.
In the same speech he added:
...drawing down any one part of the capital base may be reasonable as long as the economy's aggregate productive base is not eroded.
For example, reducing our natural resource base and using the proceeds to build human capital or infrastructure may offer prospects of higher future well-being.
A necessary, but not sufficient, condition for this to be the case is that those resources are priced appropriately and that the returns are invested sensibly.
Journalist Ross GittinsW gave measured praise for Parkinson's speech, but commented:
I doubt how much trading off is possible when it comes to the environment.
Ensuring our kids are richer than we are, while destroying the natural environment because we refuse to accept the physical limits to economic growth, doesn't sound sustainable to me.
— Ross Gittins, 
Long term well-being
The term can also be used for well-being (for example in a mental health context) which is long lasting.
Notes and references
- Sustainable well-being, Sydney Morning Herald, August 27, 2011.
- Quality of life
- More joy per person
- Indicator frameworks
- Happy Planet IndexW (HPI)
- Genuine progress indicatorW (GPI)
- Sustainable Well-Being: Exploring Sustainable Living and Lasting Happiness