Quality of Life

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What Is Quality of Life (QoL)?

Quality of life is an overarching term for the quality of the various domains in life. It is a standard level that consists of the expectations of an individual or society for a good life. These expectations are guided by the values, goals and socio-cultural context in which an individual lives (Wikipedia Opens in new window).

The concept of Quality of Life (QoL) has been defined as “the degree to which the experience of an individual’s life satisfies that individual’s wants and needs (both physical and psychological)” (Rice 1984).

The World Health Organization Opens in new window defines QoL as the “individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value system in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns” (WHO 1994).


Several definitions of QoL make reference to the natural environment, and some consider the larger scale of urban and cultural environments. In this literature, we apply QoL concepts to environments for work.

Evidence suggests that measured QoL outcomes are both predictors of and result from QoL:

Happiness and a feeling of well-being will also result from QoL. When one rates his or her life as having quality, one will concurrently have a sense of self-esteem and pride regarding his or her life. It must be noted that a confounding scenario seems to be apparent with each of these consequences of quality of life in that each can contribute to, as well as result from, quality of life (Meeberg 1993).

The ideological importance of Quality of Life is that it promotes the idea of supporting people to live in ways that are best for them in the environments they occupy. Individual assessment of QoL varies according to perceptions, personal needs, individual differences, preferences, culture and expectations. Lack of quality, however, may be perceived in more uniform ways.

Quality of life is a holistic concept composed of the cumulative contributions of a range of different life domains such as work, family, housing, neighborhood, religion, and social networks (Rice et al. 1985).

The quality of each life domain can be assessed separately and will vary according to activity, place, social role and human relations as well as cultural values and individual expectations. Perceived quality of life results from an infinite number of cumulative life experiences; the degree to which people’s wants and needs are satisfied in each domain determines the distribution of their QoL (Rice 1984).

One domain of life experience is the built environment that people occupy and the series of interior and exterior environments in which they behave, interact, perform activities and react.

In western cultures, it is estimated that people spend 90% of their time indoors and, consequently, “Beyond their biological affects, [places] make us feel uncomfortable and ill-at-ease, energetic and stimulated or relaxed and at peace… They can work so deeply into our being that they affect our state of health” (Day 2002).

The field of environmental psychology has spent many decades studying the effects of various types of built and natural environments on occupants – on their health comfort safety attachments behavior and attitudes. By showing the degree to which people are affected by the environment, the quality of each environment can be said to have a direct impact on people’s QoL.

Notions of QoL depend largely on an understanding of human needs. Much environmental psychology research examines how aspects of their physical environment succeed or fail in meeting people’s needs. Human needs have been classified in many different ways, beginning with Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy.

The categories in this hierarchy form a pyramid ranging from that which is most basic to survival to the less basic but nonetheless essential; they include physiological needs Opens in new window, safety needs Opens in new window, esteem needs Opens in new window, love, and self-actualization Opens in new window. The more people’s needs are met, the better their QoL.

The debate on needs also applies to the physical environment and how the environment affects human behavior, using a similar premise: the more a specific built environment meets the needs of its occupants, the more effective or successful it is considered to be.

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  • References
    • Handbook of Environmental Psychology and Quality of Life Research, "Why Quality Matters" By Ghozlane Fleury-Bahi, Enric Pol, Oscar Navarro (p. 387/8).

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