Measuring quality of life

Everyone wants to happy, and most probably wouldn’t mind being happier than they are right now.  Yet, happiness goes up and down with the situations of daily life.  Perhaps a better way to define a stability of happiness is “satisfaction” or “well-being.” These are the terms researchers are using to try and figure out what really gives people a high quality of life.  Traditionally, politicians and researchers have equated quality of life with quality of living, but now they’re starting to realize that these are two different things.[1]

Despite an overall high level of material well-being (plenty of food, clothes, comfortable shelter, etc), people in American and other economically wealthy countries don’t necessarily report the highest quality of life.   Quality of life isn’t solely dependent upon Maslow’s hierarchy of needs being met, it’s primarily dependent upon our perceptions of those needs being met as well as immaterial factors like meaningful relationships, social activities, and holistic health.  Surprise! Studies show that it’s possible to have a high-level of satisfaction in life and yet have a low income, a low-level of education, a severe physical handicap, few material possessions, etc.[2] In other words, quality of life is something that’s primarily subjectively, rather than objectively, determined.  

In a comparative study that gave overall quality of life ratings by country (completed by The Economist), it was found that countries with the highest ratings didn’t have the highest GDPs per person, but they did have a good balance of basic needs being met and traditional communities, like families and churches, remaining intact.  Interestingly, these same countries also had poor health ratings.[3] This is the problem of modernity: it’s solved our food security and basic material problems through the mass production of poor quality foods, but people are spending less time with family and friends, less time outside, and less time with God.  

The apostle Paul addressed a similar problem nearly 2,000 years ago when he said, “Godliness with contentment brings great gain.” -1 Timothy 6:6.  Did you know that people who regularly watch television have higher levels of dissatisfaction (thanks to the vain materialism promoted in commercials) than those who don’t?[4]  Go figure!  How many Americans do you think watch TV on a regular basis rather than spend quality time with friends or loved ones?  Quality of life isn’t dependent on what we have, it’s dependent on how we live and perceive our lives.  Thankfulness, contentedness, godliness, relationships – these are the marks of a high quality of life.

[1] The quality of quality of life measurements – JAMA
[2] Distinguishing between quality of life and health status
[3] Quality of life index – The Economist
[4] Television viewership and quality of life

Originally posted 2011-09-23 17:35:00.

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