Quality of Life, What Does it Mean?


Being alive doesn’t necessarily mean you have quality of life. In fact, quality of life refers to the degree to which people are healthy, comfortable, and able to participate in life events. Although you might tend to associate the term quality of life as being more relevant to the world of intellectual disability, it’s actually relevant to us all.

However, have you ever stopped to think about what quality of life really means? Does it just mean being physically and mentally healthy? Or does it mean having a life that’s free of illness and where you’re surrounded by people who do everything for you?

This is an interesting question. You might well think that “the good life” would be a life where you don’t have to do anything. You’d have people to cook and clean for you and give you everything you wanted. However, would this really give you a life where you felt happy and purposeful?

What does quality of life mean?

Before talking about well-being, let’s think about what it means to be happy. In fact, how do you know if your life has quality or not and how can you improve that quality? Firstly, you need to understand what quality of life really means.

Schalock and Verdugo are the greatest exponents of the quality of life model. They suggest that you have quality of life when your needs are met and when you have the opportunity to enrich your life in important areas. However, what does this mean? Furthermore, how do you know if your needs are being met?

We can break down quality of life into eight different dimensions that you should develop in order to achieve it. These are emotional well-being, material well-being, personal relationships, personal development, physical well-being, self-determination, social inclusion, and rights.

The pillars that sustain your happiness are independence, social participation, and physical and mental well-being. If one of these pillars is broken or weakened, it might damage your feelings of satisfaction.

The importance of those around you

Human beings don’t live in bubbles, isolated from the rest of the world. Similarly, you can’t understand the concept of quality of life without taking into account those that surround you. This includes people close to you, as well as others you may not know personally. However, in some way or another, they still influence you.

Family, people you live with, friends, and colleagues are the people you relate to every day. With them, you laugh, cry, create happy and sad moments, and enjoy your free time. In fact, you share your life with them.

Therefore, you mustn’t forget that the people who surround you have a real effect on your daily life. From the supermarket assistant to your next-door neighbor, gym teacher, etc. All those people influence your life in some way or another.

In addition, you live in a culture where you follow certain laws and social rules. These impact the way you see life, as well as your values, beliefs, and the meaning of what surrounds you. Nevertheless, what might be considered positive in one culture could be negative in another.

Steps to take to achieve quality of life

Depending on what area we’re talking about, the way to improve quality of life varies. For example, if we’re talking about the social and cultural system, improvements would mean a change in social policies, rights, and equality. Furthermore, the availability of financial resources to make such improvements.

On the other hand, in the field of business, it’d mean organizational change, internal and external policies, and activities and training in order to achieve this ultimate vision.

However, when it comes to the individual, it’s the eight dimensions we mentioned earlier we need to focus on. One of the most useful models for improving the quality of life of an individual is person-centered planning.

A woman and her therapist.

Person-centered planning

Person-centered planning or PCP concerns examining the person and placing them right at the center of what needs to be looked at. It always takes into account that each individual is unique, has unalienable rights, and is an independent being with their own preferences and tastes.

It’s essential to know and understand how the person feels, what their strengths, hopes, and aspirations are, in order to improve their quality of life. They need to be given a voice, be empowered, and have their needs and the needs of those around them met.

Furthermore, we need to address the dimensions we mentioned earlier, as well as how the individual takes care of those around them. We also rely on the pillars of self-determination, social participation, and well-being in order to set the individual off on the long journey toward what we know as quality of life.

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