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What's the difference in meaning? When should I use each one?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well-being represents how well someone is faring as a person. This could be with regards to someone's health, mental health, or the environment in which a person (usually a child) lives in. It doesn't necessarily imply that such a person would be happy, simply that they live in a state that's "in their best interests."

Happiness on the contrary is that fleeting thing which people always desire but may or may not always be in their best well-being. I hope that answers your question.

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Can I say that all people in India and Indo-China feel happy but all people in the West pretend to be well? – Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Mar 7 '11 at 16:20
Yes, though it doesn't make much sense "pretending to be well" isn't comparable with "feel happy." I'm afraid I don't know what you mean by that. – Neil Mar 7 '11 at 16:27
You may want to clear up "a state that's good for them," since it could mean "a state that they find good" or "a state that does them good." This may be the distinction you're trying to make in the answer as a whole (in which case it's probably even more important to be clear). – John Bartholomew Mar 7 '11 at 21:06
Good point. Making corrections. – Neil Mar 8 '11 at 13:04

Well-being is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.
You can speak of well-being for an happy person, but a happy person can also not be healthy.

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I would summarize it succinctly as:

  • 'Well-being' is a state of body.
  • 'Happiness' is a state of mind.
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