Flourishing with chronic illness(es) and everyday stress: Experiences from Soweto, South Africa

Megan Schmidt-Sane, Lindile Cele, Edna N. Bosire, Alexander C. Tsai, Emily Mendenhall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pursuit of flourishing, or living a good life, is a common human endeavor with different meanings across individuals and contexts. What is needed is a further exploration of the relationship between flourishing and health, particularly chronic illness, which affects individuals across the life course and is affected by experiences of stress derived from social and structural vulnerability. Drawing on data from the Soweto Syndemics study, including a locally derived stress scale and in-depth interviews, we explore the connections between flourishing and health for those living with multiple chronic illnesses in Soweto, South Africa within a syndemic of communicable and non-communicable disease. Rather than drawing on Western-centric notions of flourishing (which place emphasis on an individual's capabilities or capacities to thrive), we draw on previous ethnographic work on flourishing in Soweto, South Africa, which described how ukuphumelela, or “becoming victorious,” as a social or communal affair. This conceptualization reflects local values and priorities for people's lives and the ways in which their lives are deeply intertwined with each other. We contribute to a more robust understanding of flourishing in context, of how chronic illness is experienced, and of how the role of a patient is transcended in spaces where individuals are part of a social or faith community. As people living with chronic illness(es) actively pursue the good life, health care systems must consider these pursuits as valid parts of the human experience that also challenge narrow definitions of health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100144
JournalWellbeing, Space and Society
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Chronic illness
  • Depression
  • Flourishing
  • Happiness
  • South Africa
  • Stress
  • Syndemic
  • Syndemics


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