What does quality of life mean? How would a person define the concept of quality of life? Philosophers have studied questions similar to these in the aspect of what constitutes a “good” life for hundreds of years. There really is no certain date to the origin of quality of life as a specific term. In the years 1953 to 1954, two economists have been linked as the ones who used the concept in expressing their concern over ecological dangers of unlimited economic growth (Snoek, 2000).
Other economists in the 1950s researched the ideas of what counts in life is not the quantity of goods but the quality of one’s life. Social scientists began to use the term quality of life in the 1970s. Also in the 1970s, there has been growing interest in quality of life issues in relation to nursing, medicine, and health care (Sarvimaki & Stenbock-Hult, 2000). Philosophers used the concept quality of life in the 1980s to formulate moral judgment, particularly with infanticide and euthanasia in relation to severely handicapped infants and life sustaining treatment (Pennacchini, Bertolaso, Elvira & DeMarinis, 2011).
Researcher’s interest in theoretical issues and quality of life has fallen, but quality of life continues to be used in health care and clinical practice (Pennacchini et al, 2011). There are thousands of people living today with disease and health disparity. For some individuals, the goal of health may not be freedom of disease or health disparity, but a high quality of life. Through concept analysis using the Walker and Avant Model, the concept of quality of life will be examined with an emphasis on health. Many aspects will be explored to the concept, including uses, attributes, case examples, antecedents and empirical referents. Concept
The concept of quality of life and what it means is highly ambiguous.
Barofsky (2012) explains that any broad concept, such as quality of life, will continually change as it is further studied and more is learned on the concept. In a broad aspect, quality of life can be defined as the dimensions of human experience, ranging from those associated with the necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and achieving a sense of fulfillment and personal happiness (Snoek, 2000).
Related to health, quality of life can be defined as a concept encompassing physical and psychological characteristics and limitations, describing an individual’s ability to function and get satisfaction from the ability to function (Snoek, 2000).
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2011) defines quality of life as a broad multidimensional concept that includes subjective evaluations of positive and negative aspects to life. Healthy People 2020 (2013) defines health related quality of life as a multidimensional concept including a person’s well being of physical, mental, emotional and social functioning and explains this concept goes beyond life expectancy, causes of death, and direct measures of population health. Purpose
Analyzing the concept of health related quality of life helps one understand the concept with deeper meaning and clarity. A question to be asked is, “how do health practitioners improve the quality of life in patients?”
The purpose of quality of life analysis is to improve awareness on the concept and to promote the use in medical and nursing practice. With the growing needs to enhance health related quality of life, national goals have been initiated. Healthy People 2020 (2013) identified quality of life improvement as an important public health goal, paving way to further analysis of the concept. Uses of the Concept
The concept of quality of life can be used in many different aspects and disciplines. In general, quality of life can be used with philosophy, politics, business, social sciences, health promotion, nursing, and medicine. Quality of life can be used for life evaluation in each of these disciplines listed above.
In health care, for example, research may examine quality of life in relation to cancer treatment versus palliative care. Another specific example would be a study on complementary and alternative medicine use and quality of life in diabetics. In medicine, the concept of quality of life can be used in many different aspects from disorders, diseases, treatment implications, and improvement of quality of life. In sociology, quality of life can be used for social indicators to trace changes over time and monitor the social system, for example. In politics, quality of life can be measured on individual rights and the freedom of choice. The examples provided are a select few to the wide range of uses for quality of life. Defining Attributes
Defining attributes are traits or distinctive features of a concept, giving greater insight to that concept. One of the most important defining attributes to quality of life is happiness. Philosophers have studied happiness for long periods of time, considering happiness to be the highest good and utmost motivation for humans (Kerce, 1992).
From other literature review, there are attributes most frequently associated with quality of life, which include: physical health, mental health, level of independence, social and emotional facets, and spirituality. Another attribute that has emerged is ones ability to reflect on their life at a given moment and consider themself to be happily satisfied. There are many individual perspectives to what constitutes quality of life according to each of these defining attributes. For example, quality of life in the aspect of physical health may be pain or ability to sleep. Quality of life in psychological state may be physical appearance, feelings, and self-esteem.
For individuals who live in the United States and other developed countries, attributes to quality of life may be different compared to non-developed countries. For example, a person in Africa may define quality of life by freedom from torture, slavery, and religion. Other thoughts in non-developed areas could be the access to education, access to health care, freedom of disease and health burden, and a right to be treated equally. There are many luxuries in the United States and other countries that are not an option in non-developed areas that one must consider with defining attributes at a cultural level. Model Case
A model case is used to demonstrate all of the defining characteristics of a concept. For a model case with quality of life, a person would have to be in a state of physical health, mental health, happy, independent, have adequate social aspects, be able to evaluate their life, and a healthy spiritual life. With this, one must keep in mind the individuality of what these terms mean to someone. A model case could be the following scenario: P.C. is a 62 year-old male who recently retired from his job as an electrical engineer with Paskato Brothers Incorporated.
This man is happily married to his wife of 40 years and together they have four children and ten grandchildren. P.C. and his wife are planning their years of retirement to be fulfilled with tourism, purchasing a lake home, and spending time with their children and grandchildren. Socially, P.C. spends Wednesday afternoons with his good friends at Zest Creek golf course. P.C. attends Heart and Spirit Lutheran Church and considers himself to be strong in his beliefs. P.C. exercises three times a week at Wellness World and attends a bone-building class on Tuesday mornings to keep his bones and joints healthy.
According to P.C.’s yearly physical with his primary care provider, he is in excellent physical and mental health. P.C. reflects on his life and feels extremely blessed to be in his position and states he “would not change a thing.” P.C. considers himself to be happy, healthy, and full of life. In this model case, P.C. has met all of the attributes that contribute to quality of life. P.C. is able to look at his life with satisfaction and happiness. From the model, one can determine that P.C. is in good physical health, mental health, social and emotional health, and satisfied with his spiritual life. Also, P.C. is independent in his life, being able to care for himself and has no physical limitations. Borderline Case
In life, there are several different components to quality. Many people would argue that the quality of ones life is what matters, not the longevity. From analyzing quality of life, one can understand this concept with better meaning and clarity. Quality of life as a concept has been examined through uses, attributes, case examples, antecedents and consequences, and empirical referents.
Through examination, one can determine there are subjective and objective components to quality of life, with an emphasis to individuality. Awareness to the concept has been brought to light, with indication for the importance of quality of life in health care to better patient’s lives. Hopefully, research will continue on ways to improve quality of life in all aspects, with a special focus to health care.
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