Mental health represents a dynamic state of functioning separate from mental illness and can vary throughout life depending on life stressors (e.g. bullying, academic challenges, poverty). Based on a large survey of U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 74, findings support a continuum model of mental health and mental illness.1 The mental health continuum as described by Keyes2 can be viewed as a range of functioning from mental illness or "languishing in life" at one end to "moderately mentally healthy" to "complete mental health and flourishing" at the other end. Increased illness and health problems were found in adults without complete mental health and flourishing—even those without a mental illness. Completely mentally healthy adults had the fewest missed workdays, fewest chronic physical conditions, lowest health care utilization, and highest levels of psychosocial functioning.
1 Keyes, C. L. M. (2005). Mental illness and/or mental health? Investigating axioms of the complete state model of health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 539–548.
2 Keyes, C. L. (2007). Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: A complementary strategy for improving national mental health. American Psychologist, 62, 95-108.