What Is Quality of Life? Why It's Important and How to Improve It

What Is Quality of Life?

Quality of life is a highly subjective measure of happiness that is an essential component of many financial decisions. Factors that play a role in the quality of life vary according to personal preferences, but they often include financial security, job satisfaction, family life, health, and safety.

Financial decisions can often involve a tradeoff wherein quality of life is decreased to save money or earn more money. Conversely, quality of life can be increased by spending more money.

Key Takeaways

  • Quality of life can be directly related to job satisfaction.
  • It measures non-financial aspects of a job that might lead to worker happiness or unhappiness.
  • A common quality of life factor includes free time, commute, weather, and harmonious relationships with others.
  • Canada and many Scandinavian countries rank high for the quality of life for its citizens.
  • Individuals may have different metrics for their quality of life.

Understanding Quality of Life

Quality of life is a non-financial component associated with job and life satisfaction. When used in a work-related way, qualify of life often refers to the time and ability to do the thing you enjoy. If a job pays a lot of money but requires so many working hours that the worker cannot enjoy any of the money earned, that is a poor quality of life.

If a job provides time to enjoy life but leaves the worker too tired, injured, stressed out, or otherwise unable to enjoy their earnings, this is another detriment to the quality of life. Today, it is common to weigh both salary and quality of life when considering how good or bad a job is.

Quality of life is also an issue when developing a personal savings plan. In this case, the tradeoff involves sacrificing the current quality of life to improve the future quality of life. This may include limiting immediate spending by purchasing lower-cost items rather than buying higher-cost, premium items.

Quality of Life Factors

Commuting to work is a good quality of life example. It is possible to save money on housing by living farther away from popular job centers and commuting to work. However, commuters do not have as much time to spend with family or hobbies because of the extra time spent sitting in traffic or using mass transit.

Cheaper housing areas also tend to be located farther from art, culture, and entertainment. Some people consider this tradeoff worthwhile, while others choose to maximize their quality of life by spending more money to live closer to work and culture.

Some jobs can expose employees to potential hazards such as harmful chemicals, heavy machinery, and high risks of falling or another injury. The possibility for harm that could affect their enjoyment of life is weighed against earning a higher salary provided by an unpleasant job to provide the type of lifestyle the worker desires for themselves and their family members.

Hours spent at the job versus free time can be another measure of the quality of life. Professionals may choose to take high-paying jobs that regularly require extended or late work hours to earn the income they desire. This may include prolonged business travel for in-person meetings at distant locations. While such choices can increase money to fund their private lives, it limits the hours available to spend on vacation or other personal endeavors, basically, the things they were saving the money for.

Workplace conditions are another aspect of quality of life. Different jobs may require workers to perform under extreme exertion such as heavy lifting or repetitive labor that can tax the body over time, possibly leading to long-term physical impairments.

Conversely, a job might drastically restrict the worker's movements because of limited space to perform their tasks, such as staffing a toll booth or a remote security guard station.

Quality of life depends on multiple factors, depending on the individual, but having access to good healthcare, clean and safe housing, healthy food, and a job that pays a living wage, will improve one's quality of living.

Countries With the Best Quality of Life

According to an annual report from U.S. News and World Report in partnership with the BAV Group and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the top six countries in 2021 whose inhabitants enjoy the best quality of life around the world are Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and Australia. The reasons for this title are myriad from economic stability, a robust public educational system, income equality, family-friendly policies and laws, political stability, and an affordable ad well-rounded public health system.

The United States ranked much lower than these six countries and ranked number 20 for its quality of life.

How to Improve Quality of Life

If you feel your quality of life lacks in some areas, taking stock of how you define a good quality of life is an excellent first step towards improvement. While everyone's idea of a high-quality life varies, there are some universal markers.

These markers may include access to good healthcare, loving relationships, meaningful work or volunteerism, making time for hobbies you enjoy, good rest, healthy food, and the ability to perform an enjoyable form of exercise all help to improve the quality of one's life.

In addition, studies have found that practicing gratitude and meditation can improve your quality of life. Experts recommend adequate sleep (at the very least seven hours per night) to improve the quality of life and better control mood and energy levels.

How Governments Can Improve Quality of Life

There are many ways that a government can improve the quality of its citizens' lives, from funding good public schools, offering affordable access to healthcare, and supporting family-friendly policies, like paid leave to take care of sick family members, or newborn or adopted children, that help families thrive.

Many of the governments in countries listed as having a high quality of life provide services and programs to its citizen to help them improve their lives. These include access to living-wage jobs, affordable or free higher education, better gun control laws, and access to high-quality and affordable healthcare.

The quality of life in the U.S. is lower than in most developed nations due to declines in personal safety, healthcare, and uneven access to high-quality public education.

What Are the Primary Indicators of Quality of Life?

Some primary indicators of quality of life include income and job, housing, education, life-work balance, interpersonal relationships, infrastructure and services, and access to cultural and leisure activities.

How Can We Improve Quality of Life?

If you are looking to improve your quality of life, work on improving your work-life balance, relationships, home, and health by eating nutrient-rich foods, getting enough rest, and finding ways to exercise. Governments can improve the quality of life in their countries by offering affordable and accessible healthcare, investing in education at the primary and secondary level, providing affordable housing, offering family-friendly policies, and putting laws into place for workers to earn liveable wages.

How Is Quality of Life Calculated?

Quality of life can be calculated in many ways. Still, suppose you want an official definition. In that case, the World Health Organization describes it as:  "WHO 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."

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. News and World Report. "Best Countries to Live in the World."

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Meditation: In Depth."

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. "Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier."

  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Get Enough Sleep."

  5. World Health Organization. "WHOQOL: Measuring Quality of Life."

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