SO6008 - Making Sense of Happiness and Wellbeing

What will I learn on this module?

You will be introduced to the sociological study of happiness and wellbeing, posing questions about how we analyse notions of a good life and the efforts people make to flourish. We draw on sociological research as well as work from psychology, economics and philosophy to explore the significance of happiness for people’s identities and life course transitions. We discuss some of the traditional concerns of sociology such as social divisions and inequality (working through class, gender, ‘race’ and sexuality) relating these to the experience of happiness and the structuring of wellbeing. We draw on several case studies (such as wellbeing in other cultures, aging and young people) to illustrate how happiness functions as a social process that can be a site of struggle and conflict that features in many different aspects of life through families, friendships, intimacy, work and leisure.

How will I learn on this module?

You will engage with one hour lectures and two hour workshops/seminar discussions. The latter involves small and whole group activities employing posters, debates and short presentations. There will be a wide range of learning materials available online suh as images, video clips and short readings and students are expected to engage wih these each week prior to workshops discussions.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

There are two assessments for this module, firstly in week eight and at the end of the module. You will receive assessment support in class and various resources are also available online such as short assessment prep videos. You will receive feedback on assessment one which will aid your prep for the final essay. Assessment support and guidance will also be provided via one-to one tutorials with tutors.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding
1. To identify and appraise the distinctive contribution that sociological ideas can make to the analysis of happiness and wellbeing.
2. Identify and analyse how notions of wellbeing are linked to key debates in sociology such as those around identity, power and social division.
3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of how wellbeing has emerged historically and is implicated in a range of contemporary debates around the good life and the role of social policy in contemporary societies.

Intellectual / Professional skills and abilities
1. To engage with materials/data from a variety of sources and apply these in a critical way to the analysis of wellbeing.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA)
1. To explore how the study of wellbeing implies ethical questions about the good life and good society.

How will I be assessed?

Essay 1 (2,000 words).

Knowledge and understanding LO 1 and 2
Intellectual LO 1

Essay 2 (2,000 words)

Knowledge and understanding LO 1, 2,3

Intellectual LO 1

Personal Values LO 1





Module abstract

This module introduces you to the sociological study of happiness and wellbeing, illustrating the ways happiness has changed historically and varies culturally. Drawing on the latest empirical research it documents how wellbeing is experienced and structured in relation to class, gender, 'race', sexualities and disability. It explores how individuals, policymakers and practitioners can enhance wellbeing, creating more liveable societies in turbulent times marked by political, social and environmental crises. The module is delivered via a weekly one hour lecture and two hour workshops that interrogate everyday examples of wellbeing related to families, education, leisure, social media and employment. The module is assessed via two short written pieces of work where students examine their own changing experiences of living well and the ways we can analyse the functions of wellbeing in contemporary societies.

Course info

UCAS Code L300

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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