Carol Ryff and Her Six Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being

The most interesting thing about Carol Ryff is that she proposes a precise and simple model of well-being. It allows us to evaluate and self-assess the general state of psychological health of a person. Her work is known throughout the world.
Carol Ryff and Her Six Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 20 October, 2022

Carol Ryff is an American psychologist. She’s dedicated her professional life to studying wellness and resilience. In fact, her wellness model is one of the most interesting and innovative. She’s currently director of the Institute on Aging and Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA).

Carol Ryff’s research work addresses all dimensions of psychological well-being. She’s developed multidimensional evaluation scales that have proved to be extremely successful. As a matter of fact, they’ve been translated into more than 25 languages. Her work has also been used in research in various scientific fields.

Carol Ryff’s work on well-being addresses the influence of aspects such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnic and minority status, and cultural context. Furthermore, she’s studied the influence of certain life events, challenges, and transitions that we experience throughout our lives. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating psychologist.

Only joy is a guarantee of health and longevity.”

-Santiago Ramon y Cajal-

Happy woman smiling symbolizing whole people
Another topic in which Carol Ryff is gaining fame is in the study of resilience.

The career of Carol Ryff

Carol Ryff was born in the United States in 1950. She studied psychology at Pennsylvania State University, earning her Ph.D. in 1978. She then became a teacher at the University of Wisconsin. She’s been involved in wellness research ever since.

Between 1989 and 1998, she developed a model of psychological well-being that popularized her name and work. In fact, it was considered one of the most important precursors to the development of positive psychology.

Ryff defines psychological well-being as optimal human functioning, in which a high number of positive emotions are produced. Based on her research, she also developed several tools to assess the state of well-being. In addition, she worked in-depth on the concept of resilience. Indeed, this is central to her theory.

The Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being

The most prominent product of Carol Ryff’s work is her Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being. It covers several axes such as the social, personal, psychological, as well as behaviors associated with health in general. It concerns the way in which we respond to our daily challenges, learn from them, and enrich our meaning of life.

The six dimensions of her model are as follows:

  • Autonomy. The possibility of choosing and making decisions for ourselves, without depending on the approval of others. Also, the regulation of behavior and resistance to social pressure.
  • Environmental mastery. Our ability to react to our environment and manage our everyday affairs. Also, our ability to create situations that benefit our personal needs.
  • Personal growth. Our capacity to make the most of our talents and abilities. This implies the intensive use of all our potentialities and capacities. In fact, it allows us to move forward in the midst of difficulties.
  • Positive relations with others. Our ability to engage in meaningful relationships with others that are based on empathy, intimacy, and love. It’s based on a healthy ability to give and receive.
  • Purpose in life. The purpose that we give to our existence. It implies our ability to build dreams, objectives, and goals to guide our actions. Also, our capacity to give meaning to our present, past, and future.
  • Self-acceptance. Having a positive attitude toward ourselves. This includes our negative aspects and the difficult experiences of our past which, with self-acceptance, don’t cause us discomfort.
Happy woman smiling
Carol Ryff defines psychological well-being based on non-hedonic elements.

A wellness psychologist

Based on the six dimensions of her model, Carol Ryff designed an assessment scale to measure psychological well-being. This scale measures physical well-being through levels of cortisol  and cytokines. Also, from the state of the cardiovascular system and the quality of sleep.

Carol Ryff has written over 120 research articles about her work. The fields of clinical psychology, psychiatry, and even psychosomatic medicine have used her contributions.

She currently directs the Midlife in the US (MIDUS) longitudinal study. It aims to address a large sample of people and add to the existing research on well-being and resilience.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Díaz, D., Rodríguez-Carvajal, R., Blanco, A., Moreno-Jiménez, B., Gallardo, I., Valle, C., & Van Dierendonck, D. (2006). Adaptación española de las escalas de bienestar psicológico de Ryff. Psicothema18(3), 572-577.
  • Ryff, C. D., Singer, B. H., & Dienberg Love, G. (2004). Positive health: connecting well–being with biology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1383-1394.
  • Vecina Jiménez, M. L. (2006). Emociones positivas. Pap. psicol, 9-17.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.