Traditional Assessment of Wellness: 
a Free Measure of Holistic Health

The Traditional Assessment of Wellness (TAW) measures sickening and healthy mindsets and lifestyles, first mentioned in Mosaic law, a 4000-year-old tradition. It has a lie scale to measure how honest you are being with yourself as you complete the test. The TAW is an assessment tool for helping people identify attitudes and lifestyles which are working for and against their holistic health and personal wellness. It is free, user-friendly, face-valid, and it will soon be available on this website, and on the official website (under construction) for the nonprofit WELL, Inc: www.to-the-well.org

This traditional theory about the good life has cross-cultural norms for wellness. It has stood the test of time, twenty-five centuries of it. The issues measured were mentioned first by King Solomon over 2500 years ago. Not long after, these nine contrasting traits were taught by the Arabian philosopher Zoroaster, 2100 years ago by Horace in Greece, and 1600 years ago by Christian and Moslem philosophers along the Nile River in Egypt.[1]

These nine pairs of traits were taught by both Jesus and the aposte Paul. When Jesus began his teachings with the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), he explained at the outset he was teaching us how to be blessed (5:1-12). At the end of the sermon, he taught that these guidelines were being given to make our hearts healthy so they would bear good, long-lasting fruit (7:15-27). A few decades later, the Apostle Paul listed many of these sick and healthy fruits of the flesh and spirit, in Gal 5: 19-23.

Interest in these issues in the Western world grew in 620 A.D. when Pope Gregory first catalogued the “seven deadly sins.” These are seven of the nine areas of health-relevant attitudes and behaviors measured by the TAW. Under the supervision of Paul Meehl (former American Psychological Association president and author of the MMPI K scale), Dr. William Backus did his doctoral thesis at the University of Minnesota on a personality test he constructed to measure the seven deadly sins, the “Sinful Attitudes Inventory”. He gave it along with the MMPI to a large sample of college students, psychiatric outpatients, and psychiatric inpatients. This research showed widespread and statistically significant correlations between these attitudes and mental health.

Dr. Backus decided not to publish his test because of its religious connotations. But he did encourage and assist me in the publication of my own test in 1981, the Character Assessment Scale (CAS). The CAS focused on positives that were taught in public school (character) alongside negatives that were taught in church (sin). It was normed on people from all 50 states and all seven Canadian provinces. The foundational research establishing its norms, reliability, and correlative validity was accepted by the American Psychological Association [2], and 5000 copies of the this test were sold across five continents of the world.
It measured the issue of honesty, which allowed it to have a lie scale to correct for the tendency to see and present oneself in a favorable light. Ten demographic variables were studied along with these eight dimensions of holistic health, and once again, they were significantly correlated with various demographics. Now I have taken 80 of the best items from the true-false CAS, and modernized them with a Likert-scale format. I have been using this instrument in my private practice, and revising the norms as I go.

A thorough historical review of theory and research on wellness has been done by Peterson and Seligman in their 2004 book, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. As Peterson and Seligman had done, Michael Bishop’s 2015 book The Good Life: Unifying the Philosophy and Psychology of Well-Being reviewed over 200 wellness resources. Both reviews found nothing coming close to agreement in the literature of philosophy or psychology about how to define or measure wellness. In a more recent international review of wellness literature (86 references cited in October 2019), Matthew Fisher in Australia came to the same conclusion. Both Fisher and Bishop recommended that theory and research develop a network of causally related and behaviorally measurable traits, and that is just what the TAW has done.

Our model of wellbeing attempts to see wellness the way God does – as a natural byproduct of trusting and obeying Him. God sees us as He made us, as souls being asked to take care of themselves and others. Our model helps souls become more godly, more able to see ourselves and others as children of God, created to serve Him and take care of each other. Sickness is seen as going our own way, walking in the flesh/ego, abiding in bondage to bad habits, seeking and sharing fruits of the flesh (from the left side of the model’s outline below). These fruits rot and corrode us, so that we leak out the nutrition from the fruits we take in. Illness comes from a natural, self-centered, emptiness mindset. It produces lifestyles where the more we get, the more we seem to want. And the more we give, the less we seem to have. On the other hand, wellness is seeing and treating ourselves from a supernatural, God-centered, fullness mindset. It is living as if there seems to be a wellspring of well-being inside, such that the more we give away fruits of the spirit (from the right side of the outline), the more we have to give.

TAW Scales Measured

Junk Foods
Whole Foods
Sickening Mindsets
Healthy Mindsets
Lifestyles
Soul
Lifestyles
Fruits of the Flesh
FOOD
Fruits of the Spirit

Identity

Self-regard
food group
Integrity
1. Denial, Duplicity, Cheating, Illusions, Delusions, Ignorance, Lying
TRUTH
1. Honesty, Character, Curiosity,  Discernment, Wisdom, Open-mindedness

2. Fear, Insecurity, Worry, Anxiety, Panic, Doubt, Insomnia

SECURITY
2. Faith, Calm, Hope, Confidence, Courage, Peace, Focus
3. Selfish Pride, Arrogance,  Prejudice, Rebellion, Self-centeredness
RESPECT
3. Humility, Laughs at self,  Acceptance, Respects both self and others, Listens

Relationship

Conquering
food group
Connecting
4. Envy, Dependency,  Idolizing, Jealousy, Image management,
CARING
4. Compassion, Empathy with action, Caring for both self and others
5. Resentment, Divisiveness,  Revenge, Hate, Violence, Gossip, Slander
ANGER
5. Peacemaking, Forgiveness, Patience, Gentleness,  Fighting for justice
6. Lust, Porn, Sexual abuse & addictions, Selfish sex, sex outside marriage
SEXUALITY
6. Sexual Integrity, Fidelity, Making love, Sex to bless both and the marriage

Contribution

Consuming
food group
Creating
7. Greed, Abusing nature, Hoarding, Materialism, Giving best to work
MONEY
7. Stewardship, Enjoy spending, saving, and sharing, Simplicity, Generosity
8. Laziness, Depression, Addicted to work, internet/screens
TIME/ENERGY
8. Enthusiasm, Zest for life, Optimism, Mental focus, Spontaneity, Joy, Energy
9. Gluttony, Drug and alcohol abuse, Eating disorders, Smoking
BODY/HEALTH
9. Physical fitness,Self-control, Exercise, Moderation or Sobriety
The TAW measures the attitudes and lifestyles of the seven deadly sins: Selfish Pride, Envy, Resentment, Greed, Laziness, Lust, and Gluttony. Likewise it measures the positive counterparts of those seven traits – Humility, Compassion, Peacemaking, Stewardship, Enthusiasm, Sexual Integrity, and Physical Fitness. It also measures an eighth issue of truthfulness: adherence to standards of Honesty in public and private behavior, plus a Denial (lie) scale that shows the tendency to see and present oneself in a flattering light on this test. In addition to the 16 basic scores, it yields a Total Wellness Index that combines the other sixteen. Fifteen other content scales are also provided, and all scores may be adjusted to correct for social desirability distortions (the Denial scale). Each is conveyed as a percentile based on all those who have taken the test. Specific norms will be available for certain demographic variables such as gender and age.

The TAW will soon be made available here to the public. To facilitate research and encourage widespread use, the items and feedback sheet will be published through a Creative Commons copyright, using the Attribution and Share-Alike options. To insure privacy and anonymity, those who take the test will be able to print out their own outines of scores and narrative feedback. Presuming 10 seconds per item, it will take people about 15-20 minutes to complete the TAW.
Everyone submitting their answers will be asked to give fourteen pieces of non-identifying demographic information for the purposes of research: gender identity, age category, relational status, educational level, geographical area, type of occupation, income level, political views, religious affiliation, physical health, mental health, relational health, spiritual health, and the email address(es) where the results are to be sent. For example, an email may be used to collect data in general on the members of a business, school, group, class, or congregation taking the test.

These demographic factors were roughly the same ones that were collected in the foundational research for the CAS, so they will allow confirmation and elaboration of those earlier findings, indicating which lifestyles and demographic groups are associated with which types of holistic wellness and dysfunction. For the welfare of the general public, the test will remain free and anonymous, and the data collected (without email addresses) will be shared in an open research model. This will encourage future research to be diversely published.

FOURTEEN DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES BEING MEASURED

AGE BRACKET
18-25, 26-35, 36-45, 46-55, 56-65, 66-75, and 76+
GENDER IDENTITY
Male heterosexual, Female heterosexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Transsexual, Other
RELATIONAL STATUS
Single, Cohabiting, 1st Marriage, Separated, Divorced, Remarried, Widowed
GEOGRAPHICAL AREA*
Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Northwest, West Coast, International, Urban, Rural
TYPE OF OCCUPATION
Unemployed, Full-time homemaker, Employed part-time, Employed full-time without benefits, Self-employed full-time w/o benefits, Employed full-time with benefits, Management supervising 1+ full-time, Business owner employing 1+ other full-time
EDUCATIONAL LEVEL
NO H.S. Diploma or GED, H.S. Diploma or GED, Associates degree, College graduate, Masters degree, Doctorate or 2 Masters degrees
INCOME LEVEL
Lower Lower class, Upper Lower, Lower Middle (homeowner), Upper Middle (homeowner out of debt and saving money), Lower Upper, Upper Upper
POLITICAL VIEWS*
Republican

Democrat

Red – concerned for the rights of businesses and traditional families
Blue – concerned for rights of all people, especially the disadvantaged
Green – wanting to protect the environment and international peace
Purple – independent, supporting best candidate running in each race
Yellow – wanting to minimize taxes and government regulations
Gray – I cannot be described by any categories above
PHYSICAL HEALTH
Five levels will be delineated: Poor, Fair, Average, Good, and Excellent
MENTAL HEALTH*
Currently being treated in a psych ward or drug rehab unit
Struggling to cope with life, using drugs or alcohol to help or numb out
Struggling to cope with life, but not relying on drugs or alcohol
My life is stable but not very satisfying
My life is stable and satisfying, but not very interesting
My frustrations are teaching me as I go, and I’m generally enjoying life
I am content and fulfilled, enjoying life as it comes
RELATIONAL HEALTH
Poor: No significant other and no close friends
Fair: Have a lover/mate but no close friends
Average: Good close friends but not in love now
Good: Married or stable love relationship supported by close friends
Excellent: Intimate with both mate and friends
SPIRITUAL HEALTH*
Devout: regular in prayer, worship, Bible study, fellowship, and service
Social: somewhat active in church/fellowship for worship and service
Spiritual: privately praying and meditating but without organized religion
Agnostic: seriously doubting validity of bible, church, and a creator god
Atheist: I believe and live as if there’s no heaven, hell, Devil, or God
12-step: I find my higher power in the people and principles of recovery
Inactive: I guess I am a believer, but most people wouldn’t be able to tell
EMAIL ADDRESS(ESS) WHERE TEST RESULTS ARE TO BE SENT
Any group wishing their own norms on this test can ask their members to have their results sent not only to the email addresses they give for their own personal feedback, but also to one for the group administrator, who can then access their own group norms to share with their members, or to compare with previous or future administrations.
* Respondents will be able to check more than one answer to these questions.

WELLNESS ISSUES MEASURED
The 47 scaled scores of the
Traditional Assessment of Wellness

The first nine are wellness weaknesses, showing unhealthy uses of the nine life resources:

1. Denial neglecting or refusing to acknowledge one’s shortcomings and faults
2. Fear preoccupation and paralysis from worry and anxiety about the future
3. Selfish Pride expressing and protecting the belief that one is somehow special; self-centeredness
4. Envy delighting in others’ misfortunes, and reacting to their happiness with self-pity or jealousy
5. Resentment refusing to forgive others; harboring grudges and wishing or working for revenge
6. Lust using sex for personal gratification, thus avoiding, neglecting and betraying loved ones
7. Greed seeking and protecting money and material things to the neglect of family and friends
8. Laziness neglecting and disregarding important activities and responsibilities to take it easy
9. Gluttony overindulging in food, alcohol, drugs, and other pain-killing substances and experiences

The next nine are wellness strengths, showing constructive uses of the same nine life resources:

10. Honesty telling the truth and living out the same values and priorities in all settings
11. Faith trusting in a benevolent source of strength and security, even in a crisis
12. Humility living as if all people have unique and common value and potential for good and harm
13. Compassion helping and empathizing with other people, especially when they are in trouble
14. Peacemaking harnessing anger to fight for peace, to settle arguments and misunderstandings
15. Stewardship saving money, keeping it simple, and being generous with others
16. Enthusiasm inspired dedication to work long and hard without getting burned out
17. Sexual Integrity using sex to seal and celebrate intimacy in a fully committed relationship
18. Physical Fitness keeping the body fit with a healthy diet and exercise

The next nine combine related strengths and weaknesses to make one score for each resource:

19. Truthfulness = Denial score plus Honesty
20. Security = Fear score plus Faith
21. Respect = Selfish Pride score plus Humility
22. Caring =Envy score plus Compassion
23. Anger = Resentment score plus Peacemaking
24. Sexuality = Lust score plus Sexual Integrity
25. Money = Greed score plus Stewardship
26. Time/Energy = Laziness score plus Enthusiasm
27. Body/Health = Gluttony score plus Physical Fitness


One overall score reflects the average of all scores for each person:

28. Total Wellness Index TWI

Trend Analysis Scales

These will be reported in two narrative paragraphs that follow the introductory pages (see below) reporting the first 28 scales. The first paragraph will start with the heading Healthy trends: and will describe in one sentence each encouraging trends where the percentile scores below are significantly above the person’s average answers (the TMI). The second paragraph will begin with the heading Self-defeating trends: and will describe discouraging trends where the scores below are significantly below the person’s average answers (the TMI).

These experimental scales will be computed but not reported. Their reliability and internal consistency must be established before any of these would become part of the report given to those who take the test. Meanwhile, their relationship to the 25 basic scales and to the demographics can still be studied.
29. Physical Wellness
30. Emotional Wellness
31. Relational Wellness
32. Mental Wellness
33. Issues of Identity (Character vs. Confusion) = Scales 19 + 20 + 21
34. Issues of Relationship (Connecting vs. Conquering) = Scales 22 + 23 + 24
35. Issues of Contribution (Creating vs. Consuming) = Scales 25 + 26 + 27
36. Reactivity for Sins of Commission = Scales 1 through 9
37. Proactivity to avoid Sins of Omission = Scales 10 through 18
38. Principles vs. Pleasure = 33 (Issues of Identity) + 43 (Pleasure and Pain)
39. Giving vs. Taking = 41 (Love and Hate) + 42 (Work and Recreation)
40. Worry and Survival = 20 Security + 25 Money + 27 Body/Health
41. Love and Hate = 22 Caring + 23 Anger
42. Work and Recreation = 25 Money + 26 Time/Energy
43. Pleasure and Pain = 24 Sex + 27 Body/Health
44. Mission to Society = 34 (Issues of Identity) + 36 (Work and Recreation)
45. Mission to Family and Friends = 41 (Love and Hate) + 43 (Pleasure and Pain)
46. Invisible Habits of the Soul = 35 (Issues of Contribution) + 41 (Love and Hate)
47. Visible Habits of the Body = 42 (Work and Recreation) + 43 (Pleasure and Pain)

Sample Items for the Traditional Assessment of Wellness

  1. I am bothered by people who seem to have no faults.
  2. I have had resentments to last for months and months.
  3. It is a top priority for me to have enough money and assets so that I will be self-reliant.
  4. The fear of failure sometimes keeps me from doing my best.
  5. Sometimes I like to hear or look at things that most people would consider sexually obscene.
  6. When there are delicious foods around, I can’t very well eat just a little and then stop.
  7. Sometimes I enjoy seeing somebody get the punishment he deserves.
  8. Guilt is usually a constructive feeling for me, and so I react fairly well to criticism.
  9. I am usually a good companion and friend for a person who is feeling miserable.
  10. When people I love hurt me, I usually try to figure it out and talk it through with them.
  11. Learning to enjoy sharing your money is one way to protect yourself against hard times.
  12. Most people who know me think I am a cheerful and optimistic person.
  13. In romance and lovemaking, I (would) care as much about my beloved as myself.
  14. I get enough exercise, and avoid putting unhealthy food and drugs into my body.
  15. By keeping my promises, I avoid taking on too many commitments.
[1] Bloomfield, Morton, The Seven Deadly Sins. East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1952.
[2] Schmidt, Paul F. “Assessing the Moral Dimension of the Personality: The Character Assessment Scale”, paper presented to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Los Angeles, 1981. The CAS was also published by the APA in 2015 in their collection of PsychTests.

Questions?

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Dr. Paul F. Schmidt