definition of quality of life

Quality of life is a concept of sociology, but it is also part of political debate or everyday conversations. Quality of life is understood as the level of income and comfort of a person, a family or a group. This definition is merely indicative, since the idea of ​​quality of life is full of nuances.

Quality of life from a sociological perspective

Sociologists are concerned with studying society in some of its dimensions. And the quality of life of a society can be measured and evaluated based on a series of objective statistical data that allow conclusions to be drawn. If a sociologist wants to know the quality of life of a certain group, he must carry out a series of surveys to collect information on objective and measurable aspects (income level, access to drinking water, type of vehicle, household appliances, educational level, square meters of the house, time spent on leisure, etc). The results obtained provide very useful information and serve to specify the standard of living and establish various comparisons (for example, between two different nations).

The sociologist has a rough idea of ​​the quality of life, since it is based on certain statistical data. However, the sociologist cannot assess subjective aspects related to quality of life (personal satisfaction or the assessment of one's own existence). It could be the case that a family has very high objective quality of life indices and, at the same time, be an unhappy family. This ambivalent dimension occurs with some frequency, since there are peoples who feel very happy despite the fact that their living conditions are technically very poor.

In the attempt to establish scientific and rigorous criteria, sociologists use different measures to analyze the quality of life (some studies focus on health, others on psychological well-being and others on social conditions).

A quality of life proposal

Apart from the sociological analysis and the objectivity / subjectivity of the concept of quality of life, it is possible to establish a series of circumstances that could very probably be considered as valid conditions to say that a person or a family enjoys a good quality of life.

- Access to a health system that allows to face a health problem.

- Access to a generalized education for the whole population.

- A minimum level of security so that individuals do not have the perception of feeling threatened in their daily life.

- Have a minimum income level that guarantees access to basic goods (food, clothing and energy for the home).

- Socio-political circumstances that allow the exercise of basic freedoms (for example, freedom of expression or religious freedom) and political and economic corruption that is exceptional and not the usual pattern.

The conditions indicated above are a reference, that is, a general proposal for guidance and without a sociological value.

An eminently western concept

In some way, we could affirm that the concept of quality of life is very Western and allows us to know a part of human reality but not its entirety.

According to the Western mentality, it is necessary to measure any reality in an objective way and subsequently draw a series of conclusions. Parameter measurement is useful in many areas (especially economics). However, measuring quality of life is a debatable idea and not without controversy. The sociological tools on the quality of life are valid to a certain extent, since we must not forget that Western culture lives a contradictory situation: acceptable levels of quality of life if we compare them with some areas of the planet and, in parallel, some social problems that they question the supposed quality of life (increasing number of people with depression, with anxiety or who live in a situation of marginalization and social isolation). Finally, the quality of life as a numerical value that is expressed in a ranking can be misleading information and, as an example, it is worth remembering that Bhutan is a very poor country but the only one that has introduced a new measurement concept: the gross inner happiness.

Photos: iStock - vitranc / lechatnoir

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