Quality Of Life – Let’s Understand It Better

- | 62 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Life & Philosophy

couple happy with the quality of life

Quality of life is the term you often use to signify the goodness in life, or a good life. But have you tried to understand its deeper meaning and know what it’s all about?

If you did, then you’d probably know the ways to make your life more valuable.

Since I use this term in many of my posts, I decided to make an effort so that we can all understand it better. And in the process, I learned something that might surprise some of you.

For example, many of you might think that only affluence or richness can make your life worthy.

Do you also think so? Can money alone make your life better?

Yes, you all know that money can help a lot. But many people out there would doubt that it can provide you with real, long-term happiness.

In fact, there’s a research report that suggests wealth can make your life better to a certain level. Beyond that, the quality of life deteriorates even with the increase of wealth.

I know many of you’ll disagree, and I can understand your thoughts and feelings. After all, we attach so much of importance to money.

But you’d be more surprised to know that most of the definitions of “quality of life” completely exclude the reference of wealth!

Well, then why don’t we ourselves find out if it’s money or other things that really improve the quality of our life.

Let me remind you that we’re only trying to understand the quality of life of an individual, and not of a community or a place.

“The quality of life is determined by its activities.” ~ Aristotle

What is Quality of Life

First, let’s understand the meaning of the term as evident through these definitions.

One dictionary defines quality of life as your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort).

It is also defined as the general well-being of a person or society, defined in terms of health and happiness, rather than wealth.

World Health Organization (WHO) defines “Quality of Life” as an individual’s perception of his/her position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which he/she lives and in relation to his/her goals, expectations, standards and concerns.

From all the above definitions and the meaning of quality of life, you can conclude that –

a) It is not essentially related or proportional to money or wealth.

b) It is subjective and depends on your perception of life.

c) It is more about happiness and satisfaction in your life.

d) It is affected by your expectations, desires, and goals.

e) It depends on your well-being, including health.

Making a rational inference from the above conclusions, one can say that eventually if you’re heartily happy and completely satisfied with your life, you have a high quality of life.

In other words, can you then say that the quality of life is determined by the absence of suffering in life?

This suffering can be in the form of having negative attitude or perceptions, disappointments, regrets, anxieties, stress, anger, disputes, and physical pain or ailments.

Wouldn’t you love to have such a life characterized by optimism and peace!

But then does money make no difference at all? I’d say it depends on the individual.

Some like frugal living, being minimalistic, and are content with whatever they can get with the money they possess.

There are also people who want all types of material comforts and best of facilities to make life easy, and they desire lots of money for that purpose.

Whatever be the case, I think some amount of money is essential for everybody to have goodness in life – unless of course, you renounce worldly life and become a monk or a nun!

You need money to fulfill the basic necessities of life, which are food, water, clothes, and shelter.

The modern basic human needs are not limited to these and extend to health care, access to education, employment, and freedom.

According to World Bank, people deprived of any of the above basic needs are said to live in poverty and have a low quality of life.

To assess your life in terms of money and related factors, you can use the concept of “Standard of Living”.

woman practicing wellness yoga for better life

Quality of Life and Standard of Living

Perhaps some of you might think that both these terms are similar and more or less mean the same thing.

However, there’s a big difference.

Quality of life is very subjective and intangible. It’s difficult to evaluate it in general or global terms, because its criteria vary from person to person, society to society, and culture to culture.

Your idea of having a particular quality of life might be different from my concept of making my life qualitative.

It may depend on some basic factors that you take for granted, that is, the basic freedom and rights of life and living.

Besides that, your attitude towards life, your relationships, and acceptance of life also matters.

Whereas, the standard of living is objective and it can be quantified. It denotes the level of comfort attained through necessities, material goods, and wealth.

Some of the factors that help assess the standard of living of any place are income, employment, affordability, life expectancy, leisure time, infrastructure, facilities, care, and safety.

Can we say that the standard of living is about external comfort and how easy life is, whereas, quality of life is all about internal satisfaction and how happy and peaceful you feel in life?

Ideally, it is expected that a good standard of living should mean a good quality of life. However, practically, a high standard of living may neither guarantee nor be a necessity to have a quality of life.

In other words, you can have a quality of life with or without a high standard of living.

But many people and organizations do consider the standard of living as a part of their concept of quality of life, and a life with low standard of living might not be qualitative for them.

Nevertheless, it’s not with just one aspect, rather you need to be happy and satisfied with all the aspects of your life to make it qualitative.

Social scientists have helped identify the various factors that account for and contribute to quality of life.

“The quality of life that you have is determined solely by the effort you put into giving your life value, purpose and a reason.” ~ Steven Redhead

woman enjoying quality of life with office in nature

Factors that Contribute to the Quality of Life

According to the WHO, your quality of life depends on the following aspects of your life:

1. Physical health and level of independence

2. Psychological state and spiritual level

3. Personal and social relationships

4. Environmental conditions

When you take care of and fare well in all the finer aspects of these broad categories, you’ll experience the richness in life.

Another term that closely identifies with the quality of life is wellness, which is the full integration of states of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

If you wish to have wellness in life, you should read my detailed post about easy ways to achieve wellness, where I’ve discussed about how you can achieve emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical, occupational, social, spiritual, and financial wellness.

Well-being in turn is defined as a contented state of being happy, healthy, and prosperous.

Further adding to the factors that contribute to the quality of life are moods and emotions, happiness, and life satisfaction of the individual as described by the concept of subjective well-being (SWB).

Though a qualitative life is concerned with happiness and health, but it does not entirely depend on prosperity.

Do you think all wealthy and prosperous people enjoy quality of life? No, it doesn’t always happen so.

It’s the control over your mind and body, that mainly helps you avoid all the sufferings and makes your life worthwhile. You can take the help of money and comfort to achieve that, but you can also do without.

This is evident through the widely used comprehensive scale of the good life called the self-perceived quality of life scale (SPQL), which helps monitor the quality of life by taking into account the individual’s well-being, emotions, and physical and mental health.

“Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.” ~ Mihaly

This knowledge of the meaning and factors of the quality of life will help you understand how to improve your life.

Life nowadays has become too hectic, busy, stressful, and boring for most people, isn’t it?

Well, except the life getting boring, the rest applies to me too – and that means I need to make efforts to improve the quality of my life. 🙂

What would I want so that my life becomes better?

I’d like to have more time to spend with my family, time for myself, less stress, and a full night’s sleep every day! I’m sure most of my other blogging friends would want all of this too. 🙂

Blogging or your work may earn you money, and money can buy you comfort, but there is something that money can’t buy.

What is that – you might ask! Well, money cannot bring you long-term happiness and peace of mind, which are needed to make your life worthwhile.

The quality of your life depends on your physical and mental health, happiness, well-being, relationships, work, personal constitution and the environment.

In one of my future posts, I’ll be writing about the ways to improve your quality of life – so stay tuned for that!

Till then, try to be happy and satisfied with life to enjoy it. 🙂

Over to You –

What is your concept of quality of life? What place do money and standard of living hold in your life? Share in the comments.


Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos

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62 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Rachit Aggarwal

    2013-11-18 at 7:57 pm

    I really like the way you ask your readers at the end of every post to share their views. I am also planning to do something like that on my blog.

    I think money does not play very important role in quality of life, however its role is substantial in Standard of living.

    I would like to cite an example of Bhutan, the country known to have pioneered the concept of Gross National Happiness. Bhutan actually calculates the quality of life index while other countries have indicators like GDP/GNP to measure the standard of living.Also, as we all know it is one of the poorest country but yet the quality of life is amazing there.

    See India, Very competing GDP but then where is quality and I don’t think there is also enough standard of living(As calculated by GNP). Also, if it is there at least it is not reflected.

    Just to add, Bhutan recently discontinued this indicator with the advent of Tshering Tobgay, newly elected PM who is more focused towards development of Industries and manufacturing units. But, the fact that how western world remain intrigued by this concept of GNH (Gross National Happiness) can’t be ignored.

  2. Gladys

    2013-10-24 at 6:22 am

    Hello Ms. Harleena

    What an interesting subject; the quality of life.

    I read the comments and it’s so amazing how many look at the quality of life without money in the equation. Money is needed, but our quality of life is NOT based on money.

    I have known many people with a lot of money, but they were very unhappy due to the illness in their bodies. Money cannot buy our happiness or our health. It is needed because we are to take care of our livelihood, but our joy and freedom is the quality of life I am enjoying.
    I am not considered a wealthy person when it comes to money, but I am considered wealthy when it comes to contentment and compassion for others.

    Thank you for this great article that inspires us to think deeper.


  3. Carolyn

    2013-10-17 at 12:16 am

    Hi Harleena,

    In your next article, when you discuss ways to improve your quality of life, you might want to include reading Aha-Now. Your articles always cover ways that we can improve our quality of life.

    You bring up so many fascinating points, Harleena. Millionaires might be miserable and those living in poverty may be serene. It’s not how much you have, it’s how much you enjoy what you have. The World Bank point about having enough to subsist is a good one. After that, it’s all a bonus.

    Experiences and relationships are what bring true joy, not material objects. Yet so often our quest is for more money and more stuff.

    One of my favorite movies is A Simple Plan. It’s about a couple who comes across a lot of money and they think that will help make them happy. But when the money goes away and they have to return to their lives they had before they are no longer satisfied with what brought them joy previously.

    Thanks for sharing this wealth of information with us, Harleena. Such an important topic!

  4. Mitch

    2013-10-16 at 6:23 pm

    Hey Harleena,

    My Entire concept of “quality of life” has dramatically changed after watching the movie “In-time” with “Justin Timberlake”,
    it opened my eyes to a simple concept we are living, “you do not pay for things with money, you pay with the time of your life you are wasting working and doing things you don’t enjoy”. That’s quality of life, how much is your time and life worth. How many years of your life are you wasting to afford whatever you think it is worth it!!

    Many thanks and Best wishes!

  5. Ellen M. Gregg

    2013-10-15 at 10:55 pm

    I love this, Harleena.

    I can honestly (and gratefully) say, while my standard of living would be meager in anyone’s eyes, my quality of life is through the roof.

    It would be easy to write a litany about how much I don’t have in the way of standard of living, but that would be to the detriment of my quality of life. Those closest to me are aware of my circumstances, but I don’t harp on them because it doesn’t do me a whit of good.

    Keeping a positive frame of mind, maintaining a peaceful existence, and enjoying life and what it has to offer to the best of my ability is what matters most.

    Peace. ~Ellen

  6. Efoghor Joseph Ezie

    2013-10-15 at 10:45 pm

    Harleena, your posts are simply irresistible anytime. This is another great post that demands some form of brain storming.

    Yes, money is good and cannot be wished away. It is needed to afford the basic things of life. However, we must all know that money cannot buy everything, otherwise the billionaires of this world would never die.

    Money can contribute to happiness to an extent; but money can never give you joy and peace. These two are God’s gift and there is no way you can create them artificially.

    I have come to realize that those who have money never get satisfied, and they even have more security concerns than the average person. The rich want more money and in the process they get more and more dissatisfied with what they have; that in itself eventually affects their quality of life negatively.

    A lot of things combine to give you a better quality of life – physical health, intellectual life, social health, spiritual state, family disposition, etc. So a rich man could be having severe distress in his immediate family and that could negatively affect his quality of life.

    If one has enough money but no quality education, he is going to feel inadequate in the midst of his contemporaries. That is also a problem in itself. If you have the money but you don’t know how to live a philanthropic life, the feeling of guilt and inadequacy would still exist.

    Like you rightly said, a lot of parameters are used to measure the quality of life. The quality of life is subjective; meaning that if we chose to be satisfied with what we have our life would be more meaningful to us. But if we see life as a place of competition and we covet everything around, life would never be satisfactory.

    Once we can afford the basic necessities of life, we should be truly satisfied with ourselves and be grateful to God for the privilege. Every other thing we get in addition should be seen as mere addition that we can even give out to those in need.

    What brings satisfaction in life is our ability to be grateful to God for the little we have and keep believing in him to improve our lives in whichever ways he deems fit.

    Thanks Harleena! God bless you for this piece. Do have a wonderful day.

  7. Debbie

    2013-10-15 at 9:22 pm

    Excellent points, Harleena!

    I’ve never been one to equate wealth with happiness, (probably because I’ve never been wealthy) and have very little interest in material things, but, I do like to travel and would be less happy if we couldn’t ever do that, so, yes, in some respects, money CAN contribute to one’s overall quality of life. On the other hand, we don’t even have a flat screen TV. 😉 It’s all a matter of priorities and perspective.

    Every individual has their own take on what makes them happy and content. Personally, I find conspicuous consumption, (huge mansions, ornate furnishings, super stretch limousines etc.), totally vulgar and distasteful, not to mention, bad for the global environment. Think, how many valuable resources are wasted when smaller would do just as well! Pardon my rant – pet peeve. 🙂

  8. Obasi Miracle

    2013-10-15 at 11:27 am

    Hello Mam,

    This is really another brilliant read for the new week, I am of the opinion of the quality of life having to do with; how healthy how wealthy how comfortably and how much are you contributing.

    I have to personally agree with all your points in this article but has just aired and concluded my view on how I measure up quality of life.

    Thanks for sharing Mam, do have a splendid week too.

  9. Donna Merrill

    2013-10-14 at 9:48 pm

    Great topic Harleena!

    The way I see it is that if we don’t have our health, how the heck can we enjoy money? Also our psychological health. It brings to mind some of “famous movie stars and singers” that die early. They have received tons of money from their efforts, but whatever happens, they might commit suicide or overdose or become ill.

    Also, “money can’t buy you love.” Love is the essence of the human condition. That’s what we are here for right? All the money in the world cannot create love.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I like money as much as the next guy. I think it improves living conditions. Plus, the more you have, the more you can give. It is a good thing.

    But…without our physical, mental, and emotional health, it’s not worth a thing.


  10. Nwosu Desmond

    2013-10-14 at 11:25 am

    The concept of quality of life & quality of living are often confused for the other. The quality of life is not measured in affluence or wealth, i blame our society for it, we have redefined success as the physical things we can see & touch, the things we can show for it rather than what makes us who we are, the quality & morals in us.

    A man could own all the wealth in life and still have a low quality of life, for me health comes first in my table, good health & education, my spiritual consciousness and family are what makes up my ow quality of life.

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Quality Of Life – Let’s Understand It Better

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