Critique on the conceptualisation of quality of life: a review and evaluation of different conceptual approaches

Int J Nurs Stud. 2006 Sep;43(7):891-901. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2006.03.015. Epub 2006 May 11.


Over the past decades, the concept of quality of life has been of paramount importance for evaluating the quality and outcome of health care. Despite its importance, there is still no consensus on the definition or proper measurement of quality of life. Several concept analyses of quality of life have been published. However, they appear to have had a rather limited impact on how empirical studies are conducted. Therefore, we present an overview and critique of different conceptualisations of quality of life, with the ultimate goal of making quality of life a less ambiguous concept. We also describe six conceptual problems. These problems were used as criteria to evaluate the appropriateness of different conceptualisations. This evaluation suggests that defining quality of life in terms of life satisfaction is most appropriate, because this definition successfully deals with all the conceptual problems discussed. The result of our concept evaluation was not surprising for it corroborated the results of several concept analyses and the findings of a structural equation modelling study. Based on the findings revealed by our review, we propose that the scientific community should revitalise the conceptual discussion on quality of life. Furthermore, our findings can assist researchers in developing more rigourous quality-of-life research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Attitude to Health
  • Bibliometrics
  • Concept Formation*
  • Goals
  • Happiness
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Research Design
  • Value of Life