Quality of life

Quality of life is an evaluation of the overall well-being of a group in society, determined by looking at a series of factors in a persons life.[1] What constitutes a general well-being and high quality of life is not strictly defined, but one definition says that a way to quantify someones quality of life is to look at something called their happiness requirements which are simply things that must exist in a persons life in order for them to be happy.[2] However, others look at factors less necessary to survival as being important to quality of life. The Quality of Life Research Unit at the University of Toronto states that quality of life is:

The degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities of his or her life.[3]

Also contained within their definition of quality of life is the importance of three main "factors" in each persons life. The first of these is being, or the general wellbeing of your physical, mental, and spiritual being. They also highlight the importance of belonging, or having healthy connections with the environment and community around you. The final factor is becoming, or realizing your personal goals and aspirations.[3] For more on the University of Toronto's quality of life research, see their page here.

Contributing Factors

For interesting visualizations of how certain factors affect different aspects of a persons quality of life, see Gapminder.


GDP is sometimes used to evaluate the quality of life of a group of people. It is not a good sole indicator, but it can point to development in some regions and indicate how much infrastructure a person has access to. There is a relationship between GDP and a development of a country, and thus the standards of living. Living in a country with a strong economy improves standards of living, lowers the cost of some goods, and presents people with better, higher paying jobs.[4] The subsequent increase in access to infrastructure that also occurs when a country is prosperous economically increases quality of life as amennities are easier to access. This infrastructure is also important as it begins to reach the poorer sections of the population, decreasing poverty.[5] However, increasing GDP and a thriving economy can lead to disparity between the rich and poor, a loss of important leisure time, and a decrease in working conditions.[4]

Energy Usage

Closely linked to GDP, the access to electricity and subsequent energy use can be indicators of overall well-being. As people in poorer areas gain more access to electricity, clean water, and other amenities, the overall energy use of that area increases. This increased quality of life from improved health care centers and better living conditions is aided from the access to electricity.[6] Thus, an increase in the energy usage - particularly in poorer countries where use and quality are life are slightly lower - can indicate an upward trend in the quality of life. By the same token, providing people living in areas with lower living standards can work to reduce the poverty there and subsequently increase the quality of life.[6]

Other Factors

The human development index is one way that quality of life can be determined, at least partially, as it gives a general idea of the services a person will have access to and the level of poverty that they are living in. Other factors that contribute to a persons quality of life include, but are not limited to:[7]

  • Living and working conditions: This includes the levels of pollution, access to clean water, and levels of comfort in the home and at work.
  • Experiences: This is connected to the idea of people having the opportunity to be educated, the ability for them to experience things that make them happy, and how they are able to find enjoyment in life. A persons stress levels can also contribute to their overall well-being.
  • Freedom: Whether or not a person is free in terms of religion, spirituality, politics, and whether or not they are free to pursue their own goals is vital.
  • Health and Security: A persons access to medical care and food enough to sustain them is vital to well-being, along with having physical security due to the absence of excessive crime or war.

It can be seen that even in these other factors are things that people in developed countries can lack - such as free time, a stress free life, and the ability to pursue their dreams. Thus it is not just economic stability and development that contributes to a persons quality of life


  1. Collins Dictionary. (2015, Mar.7). Quality of Life [Online]. Available: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/quality-of-life
  2. S. McCall. (2015, Mar. 7). Quality of Life in Social Indicators Research 2. pp229-249. 1975. Available: http://logica.ugent.be/philosophica/fulltexts/25-2.pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 Quality of Life Research Unit. (2015, Mar. 7). Quality of Life Model [Online]. Available: http://sites.utoronto.ca/qol/qol_model.htm
  4. 4.0 4.1 Debate.org. (2015, Mar.7). Is GDP a good indicator of quality of life? [Online]. Available: http://www.debate.org/opinions/is-gdp-growth-a-good-indicator-of-improving-quality-of-life
  5. IFC World Bank Group. (2015, Mar.7). Access to Infrastructure [Online]. Available: http://www.gcgf.org/
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cesar Pasten, Juan Carlos Santamarina. (2015, Mar.7). Energy and Quality of Life [Online]. Available: http://www.kerneenergi.nu/kilder/energy%20consumption%20and%20quality%20of%20life.pdf
  7. Global Research Development Center. (2015, Mar.7). Quality of Life' [Online]. Available: http://www.gdrc.org/uem/qol-define.html

Authors and Editors

Lyndon G., Jordan Hanania, Ellen Lloyd, Kailyn Stenhouse, Jason Donev
Last updated: September 17, 2016
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