Positive psychology is better served by a bivariate rather than bipolar conceptualization of mental health and mental illness: a commentary on Zhao & Tay (2022)

M. Iasiello, J. van Agteren, K. Ali, D. B. Fassnacht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The nature of the relationship between mental health and mental illness is complex and depends on the way we measure and define each concept. A recent article in the Journal of Positive Psychology raises an important question: will positive psychology be better served by a bipolar or bivariate conceptualization of the relationship between well-being and ill-being? Here, bipolar refers to a conceptualization where mental health and mental illness are opposite anchors of the same continuum and bivariate considers each concept related yet distinct. We argue that the bivariate conceptualization offers academic opportunities that are not possible under a bipolar view. We argue that the bipolar conceptualization limits academic progress, diminishes the opportunity for personal recovery, and is not supported by the literature. We further summarize the measurement considerations that would improve the ‘separability’ between mental health and mental illness, to realize the academic opportunities that the bivariate model offers positive psychology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-341
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2024


  • Well-being
  • bipolar
  • bivariate
  • mental health
  • mental illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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