The term “quality of life” is used to indicate the general well-being of people and societies. It often is associated with the term "standard of living," but the two do not necessarily mean the same. A standard of living merely is the evaluation of the wealth and employment status of a person in a society. Though both are factors to determine quality of life, these are not its sole indicator. A person’s environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation, social well-being, freedom, human rights and happiness also are significant factors.
Some politicians and economists use the term “quality of life” to assess the livability of a society. In healthcare, a patient who is diagnosed with a major depressive disorder often is evaluated based on the quality of his or her life. Many social psychologists also consider it to be a major factor that influences some people's decisions to commit suicide.
Quality of life is measured in a variety of contexts. Aside from healthcare, it also is used in international development and political science. This results in the diverse definitions given to the term. Factors that are considered are both qualitative and quantitative. Many local, national and international organizations conduct surveys and psychological tests to determine an individual or society’s life quality for different purposes.
In international development, quality of life is used to broaden the analysis of a society’s standard of living. The theories and methodologies used greatly depend on the organization’s principles and ideologies. In many cases, such methods also are affected by the kind of result that the organization expects from their study.
World Bank has defined quality of life in terms of its neo-liberal policies that are supposed to eradicate poverty on a global scale. It defines the term based on the fundamental needs of humans. Based on this, poverty is then defined as having low quality of life. For grassroots non-government organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty on a national or international scale, improving this aspect is usually done by helping the individuals in their communities.
The methods to determine the quality of life in a society or for an individual can be either objective or subjective. To illustrate, determining the level of happiness of a person is difficult to quantify. This is the reason that many organizations would rather depend on tried-and-tested quantitative instruments in assessing it. One popular example is the Human Development Index used by the United Nations Development Programme.