Department of Health Promotion and Development

Positive Health Indicators

Researchers at the Department of Health Promotion and Development have created a database for positive health indicators in order to give researchers interested in positive dimensions of health ideas and access to measurement tools.

Main content

Access to Database

Instructional video

How do I use the database?


There are three main ways of finding content in the database

  1. Via the folders.  Select a relevant folder from the menu on the left and browse the content.
  2. Via the ‘search library’ option on the right in the black menu at the top of the page.  This option performs a search in the folder you have selected from the menu on the left (see bullet point 1).  If you wish to search all folders, select the top folder called ‘Library’.
  3. Via tags.  Below the folders on the left, there is a large group of tags.  To see more tags, click the ‘more’ button at the bottom of the tag collection.  You can search for tags in the tag search field.  You select a tag by clicking it, and deselect by clicking once more.  Important: The search engine searches for combinations of all the tags you have selected. Make sure you haven’t selected more tags than you wish to.

Can I add new documents to the database?

Yes.  Our aim is to keep this database as an interactive research tool for the health promotion community. Anybody with a sincere interest in research on health as more than the absence of disease is welcome to contribute to the article collection. To do so you need to be granted access to the database with administrative rights. Write an email to project coordinator torill.bull@iuh.uib.no if you are interested.  She may also add articles on your suggestion.

By which criteria are the articles in the database classified?

The articles are classified in folders by the principle of maximizing the chances you will find what you are interested in.  That means each article is assigned to several folders.  An imaginary paper with the title “Coping and health-related quality of life of diabetic children living in poor families in South Africa” would be classified in the folders

  • Children
  • Coping
  • Culturally and geographically defined
  • Diagnosis related
  • Family
  • General health
  • Health-related quality of life
  • High-specificity groups
  • Mental health
  • Psychological functioning, diverse
  • Quality of life


What do I find in the database?

What is the content of the database?

The content of the database is scientific articles related to indicators of positive health. For each indicator we have had an aim of including three articles:

  1. The article which originally introduced the indicator
  2. The most-cited article using the indicator

Some of the articles contain a full version of the indicator in question. Others have a more limited mention of the indicator.

Do I get access to full versions of the positive health indicators?

You get access to the full versions of the indicators to the degree that the authors share them in the relevant articles. This varies. In case you do not find what you need, the articles should give enough information to help you access the indicator through other channels.

Do I get access to the full text versions of all articles in the database?

In the database we have included papers we have access to through the University of Bergen library subscription system. Users of the database will get access to the full text versions to the degree that they have legitimate access from where they search.  Titles, tags and, normally, abstracts are available without full access to journals. We recommend contacting article authors in cases where you have problems locating content that seems important to you.

By which criteria were articles on indicators added to the database?

Firstly, the articles needed to offer at least one item assessing the presence of a positive aspect of health.  Assessing only absence of negative states was not enough.

Secondly, we included indicators assessing health at the individual level. The dimension ‘social health’ focuses on individuals’ integration and functioning in an interpersonal environment but still with the individual at the centre of interest.

Thirdly, in many cases there is no consensus what should be regarded as health and what should be regarded as a precursor to health or a state conducive to health.  Being pragmatic persons we have chosen to include indicators from both types. The reason we did this was to include material of value to health promoters of differing positions rather than favouring one position.

Does the database contain all positive health indicators that exist?

Surely not! This was a project of limited time and resources, but we hope you will assist us in adding other good indicators to the database.  Send an email to project coordinator torill.bull@iuh.uib.no

Are all indicators in the database purely positive?

Unfortunately not!  Most indicators are a mix of negative and positive items.  We welcome the day when we have a far stronger selection of indicators to measure positive health aspects!


On the concept of health

How do you define health?

We acknowledge that the concept of health is contested and respect that there are many strong views in the field.  For this purpose we choose to define health broadly to create a database that can be useful to many health promotion researchers.  We therefore base the project on the WHO health definition which is included in the Ottawa Charter. This definition highlights the positive aspects of health:  

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  (https://apps.who.int/aboutwho/en/definition.html)

Whatever is ‘positive health’? Isn’t health always positive?

We use the word ‘positive’ in the meaning of ‘presence’, not as a value judgement:

Composed of or characterized by the presence of particular qualities or attributes” (www.thefreedictionary.com/positive).  

By positive health we mean the presence of certain qualities, “not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (see WHO health definition).   Of course, moving on to which qualities should be present takes us into a field where there is lack of consensus, but we still have a go…

What is a positive health indicator?

A positive health indicator is one or a collection of questions which assess the presence of one or several aspects of health as more than absence of disease or symptoms.  Examples could be instruments that map degrees of energy, optimism, physical agility, or life satisfaction.

How many health dimensions are there?

The WHO definition mentions the three dimensions physical, mental and social health, with social health also being termed psychological health and sometimes emotional health.  In addition to the three WHO dimensions, spiritual health is suggested as a fourth dimension by many health researchers. This dimension is seen to cover existential aspects, not merely religious aspects.  There are also other dimensions mentioned in the literature, for instance occupational health.  Many people see this more as a setting for the expression of the other health dimensions – physical, mental and social health and the workplace are in a complex interplay.

In the positive health indicator database we have chosen a pragmatic approach and include measurement of and folders for physical, mental, social, spiritual and occupational health.


More about the project

Who is responsible for this database?

Researchers at the Department of Health Promotion and Development (the HEMIL centre) at the University of Bergen in Norway have created the database.  The work has been done as a contribution to the Global Working Group on Salutogenesis (www.salutogenesis.fi/), which is a working group within the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE, www.iuhpe.org).   

Maurice B.Mittelmark, Prof. (project leader)

Torill Bull, PhD (project coordinator)

Tove Rullestad, MPhil (university librarian)

Ingvild Kvisselien, MPhil (research assistant)

Annette Servan, MPhil (research assistant)

Marie Grimm, MPhil (research assistant)

Marguerite Daniel, PhD (additional team member)

Why did we make this database?

To stimulate the use of positive health indicators within health promotion research by giving ideas about and facilitating access to measurement tools.

For whom did we make this database?

We made the database for health promotion researchers interested in positive dimensions of health.

Who financed the project?

The project was financed by ‘L. Meltzer’s Høyskolefond’ (L. Meltzer’s University and College Fund) at the University of Bergen; by student scholarships from the University of Bergen; and by contribution of faculty research time.