Quality of Life

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Well-being and quality of life in a population, which are linked to factors such as standard of living, happiness, freedom and environmental health, are essential to economics and political science. Politicians are showing an increasing interest in developing a 'Gross National Happiness' index, similar to GDP.

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Overview

Quality of life is a broad concept related to overall well-being within a society. The concept goes beyond living conditions approach, which tends to focus on material resources (money, access to goods and services) available to individuals and takes account of indicators such as happiness, the freedom to choose one's lifestyle and subjective well-being. The concept is thus multi-dimensional, and measured by both objective and subjective indicators. 

Whereas objective indicators of living standards are easily measurable, it is more difficult to assess the subjective measures. However, these form an integral part of an individual's perception of quality of life, and more data on them is needed for social policies and programmes. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed an international cross-culturally comparable instrument to assess quality of life covering six broad domains

  • Physical health; 
  • psychological health; 
  • level of independence; 
  • social relations; 
  • environment, and; 
  • spirituality/religion/personal beliefs. 

The organisation defines quality of life as "an individual's perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns. It is a broad-ranging concept affected in a complex way by the person's physical health, psychological state, personal beliefs, social relationships and their relationship to salient features of their environment."

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