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 often include financial security as well as job satisfaction, family life, social connections, health, and safety.

Financial decisions often involve a tradeoff in which present quality of life is decreased to save money or earn more money for the future.

Key Takeaways

  • Quality of life is often directly related to job satisfaction.
  • Quality of life factors include the availability of free time, a reasonable commute, harmonious relationships with colleagues, and the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • The relative importance of the many factors that make up quality of life varies among individuals.

Key Takeaways

  • Quality of life is often directly related to job satisfaction.
  • Quality of life factors include the availability of free time, a reasonable commute, harmonious relationships with colleagues, and the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • The relative importance of the many factors that make up quality of life varies among individuals.

Understanding Quality of Life

Quality of life is strongly associated with financial factors beyond the basic necessities of food and shelter. More money often means access to greater comfort, freedom from many anxieties, and an optimistic outlook for the future.

Inevitably, job satisfaction is a key component of quality of life. For many of us, it determines our degree of satisfaction with half of our waking hours. Add in the importance of a paycheck and it affects many other aspects of our lives.

If a job provides time to enjoy life but leaves the worker too tired, injured, stressed out, or otherwise unable to enjoy their earnings, it subtracts from 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 current quality of life to improve future quality of life. This may include postponing luxuries and leisure activities that improve our overall sense of well-being.

Quality of Life Factors

Commuting to work is a good quality of life example. It is often possible to save money on housing by living farther away from work. The trade-off is less time to spend with family or hobbies and more time sitting in traffic or waiting for a train.

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 quality of life by living closer to a vibrant city center.

Some jobs expose employees to potential hazards such as harmful chemicals, heavy machinery, high risks, or physical strain. The possibility of harm that could lessen their enjoyment of life is weighed against earning a higher salary for doing an unpleasant job.

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. While such choices can increase income it limits the hours available to enjoy it.

Quality of life depends on the individual, but access to good healthcare, clean and safe housing, healthy food, and a living wage are near-universal factors.

Quality of life depends on the individual, but access to good healthcare, clean and safe housing, healthy food, and a living wage are near-universal factors.

Countries With the Best Quality of Life

Norway, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands consistently rank in the world’s top 10 countries in terms of quality of life or standing of living, according to a 2024 World Population Review analysis of recent results from three sources.

In fact, the top 10 list from Numbeo, one of the sources, included nine European nations. Oman was number seven.

Safety, health care, economic factors, and education were commonly used factors in the reports.

The United States did not appear in the top 10 list of any of the three sources, which included the United Nations Human Development Index and U.S. News & World Report as well as Numbeo.

How to Improve Quality of Life

If you feel your quality of life is lacking, considering 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, leisure time for hobbies you enjoy, good rest, healthy food, and the ability to perform an enjoyable form of exercise.

Studies have found that practicing gratitude and meditation can improve your quality of life. Experts recommend adequate sleep (at 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

Governments can look to data collected from happiness economic studies and indices to find places to improve the population’s quality of life. One such index is the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index.

The latest version of the index, based on a survey of 5,000 Americans, concludes that Delaware residents have the highest life satisfaction, while Oregon residents are in last place.

There are many ways that a government can improve the quality of its citizens’ lives. Actions include 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. These policy movements help families thrive.

Many of the governments in countries listed as having a high quality of life provide services and programs to their citizens 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 many developed nations due to declines in personal safety, high healthcare costs, 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 sufficient income, job satisfaction, decent housing, access to high-quality education, a reasonable life-work balance, rewarding personal relationships, and access to cultural and leisure activities.

How Can We Improve Quality of Life?

Work on improving your work-life balance, relationships, home, and health.

Governments can improve the quality of life in their countries by offering affordable and accessible healthcare, investing in education, providing affordable housing, offering family-friendly policies, and putting laws into place for workers to earn living wages.

How Is Quality of Life Calculated?

Quality of life can be calculated in many ways. One is from the World Health Organization:  “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.”

The Bottom Line

Quality of life is, above all, an individual calculation. Most of us, however, include good health, good friends, loving relationships, and some degree of creature comforts in the factors they assess. It may sound distasteful, but the money we have and the ways we get it have a big role in many of the factors that make up quality of life.

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