Quality of life is a broad concept that encompasses our physical, social, psychological, and spiritual being, and most of all an ability to be actively engaged in the world around you. The World Health Organization defines the quality of life as “An individual’s perceptions 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”.
This means that there is not an objective and universal criterion to quantify the quality of life of every human being. The reason for this is that there are several factors to take into account to assess the quality of life, such as lifestyle, personal wellbeing, social, and economic conditions. The concept of the quality of life expresses how much an individual feels good physically and psychologically, when their needs have been met and satisfied, and their lifestyle is aligned to their expectations. Moreover, there is not a universal and objective target of achievement to reach the best quality of life. Therefore, everyone has their own criteria to judge life based on their specific needs to satisfy.
In fact, according to the psychologist Abraham H. Maslow every human being has specific needs to satisfy to reach the highest level which is self-actualization. Maslow introduced this theory in his book Motivation and Personality (1954), by using the image of a pyramid to list and classify human needs and explained how human development is a process that follows different stages.
self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities)
belongingness and love needs (intimate relationships, friends)
esteem needs (prestige and feeling of accomplishment)
physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest)
safety needs (security, stability)
This classification is fundamental to understand how we work as human beings, the triggers of specific behaviors, and also what motivates us to set specific goals to achieve. At the base of this pyramid there are the physical needs, because as soon as a human being has satisfied these, they strive to rise to another level, namely, to address their psychological needs and at the final and highest level to satisfy their spiritual needs.
Furthermore, the priority that everyone might give to these needs is subjective, for example, someone might consider the achievement of a position of prestige, such as becoming the chairman of a famous company, to be the most important goal, on the other hand, someone else might think that the satisfaction of their basic needs is the only priority in their life. The knowledge and awareness of needs and specific goals connected to them is fundamental to give a concrete sense to the concept of quality of life.
Similarly, to study this more concretely and to asses individually the concept of the quality of life we have to look at these specific aspects:
- Physical health: This aspect can be evaluated by thinking about the time dedicated to exercise and the kind of diet adopted. What is possible to control and to do to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, such as drinking enough water, eating fruit and vegetables and exercising regularly? Also consider organizational, financial, social, and cultural services that provide access to health care.
- Psychological state: Be aware of general and frequent moods, specifically happiness, sadness, motivation or lack thereof, and quantity and quality of sleep.
- Social relationships: In regards to social life, how much and how often time is spent with friends and family.
- Environment: Evaluate current living conditions and workplace and relationships developed in these areas. In what way can a good balance between time dedicated to work, family relations, friends, and colleagues be maintained
- Spirituality: To consider to what extent life is meaningful and if it has a clear purpose?
In assessing these aspects, a person should consider their present situation, after they have written down their answers, it might be useful to look back at their past and notice if something has changed over the years. Maybe in some areas of life the evaluation is more positive than others and this is normal due to the fact that life is a developmental process. However, the exploration of these different aspects of life is a way to measure when a person feels very healthy and satisfied or content with life, to capture the positive experiences of daily activities, the quality of personal and professional relationships, emotional balance, resilience, and realization of one’s potential.
These attributes are commonly referred to as wellbeing and are associated with numerous benefits related to health, work, family, and economics. Wellbeing is a personal responsibility and to pursue it, it is necessary to be aware of individual needs and able to find the best way to satisfy them. This is a learning process that requires self-knowledge, an assessment of expectations, specifically if they are measurable and achievable and, have been identified through mindful attention to the four cardinal aspects of life: personal, emotional, professional, and social.
“A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.”