Assessing a Happiness and Wellbeing Course in the United Arab Emirates: It is What They Want, but is it What They Need?

Louise Lambert, Zakary A. Draper, Meg A. Warren, Ricardo Mendoza-Lepe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Courses that target wellbeing have grown in higher education. Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs), the empirically validated activities designed to generate wellbeing, form the bulk of these courses. Their effectiveness has been documented across global meta-analyses; but less so in the Middle East/North Africa region and in classroom settings. Given the stigma of mental health, we developed and evaluated a happiness and wellbeing course to determine whether it could yield greater wellbeing in the United Arab Emirates. A semester-long happiness and wellbeing course (i.e., positive psychology) offering weekly PPIs was evaluated against pre- and post measures of subjective wellbeing, positive and negative emotion, a fear of happiness, locus of control, individualism and collectivism, somatic symptoms and stress. Only a statistically significant decrease in participant’s fear of happiness was recorded; no other impact was evident. PPIs, while normally effective, may be less so in raising wellbeing in a classroom setting where academic pressures may conflict with necessary insight and growth. Alternatively, it may be that these interventions are less effective in non-Western contexts where happiness and wellbeing are not considered urgent or essential goals, and where distress and wellbeing may co-exist more comfortably. Thus, despite such courses being of great interest in popular discourse and regularly used to support government agendas and institutional initiatives, they may not always be impactful routes to building the wellbeing of young people in higher education. More critical assessment of their outcomes and further study into how they can be better adapted for regional audiences is the way forward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-137
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Positive Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Positive psychology
  • Positive psychology interventions
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Wellbeing class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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