"What makes life good?" Developing a culturally grounded quality of life measure for Alaska Native college students

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2013 Aug 5;72. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21180. eCollection 2013.


Background: Alaska Native (AN) college students experience higher attrition rates than their non-Native peers. Understanding the factors that contribute to quality of life ("what makes life good") for AN students will help inform supportive programs that are congruent with their culture and college life experiences.

Objectives: Co-develop a conceptual model and a measure of quality of life (QOL) that reflects the experiences of AN college students.

Methods: Six focus groups were conducted with 26 AN college students. Within a community-academic partnership, interactive data collection activities, co-analysis workgroup sessions and an interactive findings forum ensured a participant-driven research process.

Findings: Students identified and operationally defined eight QOL domains (values, culture and traditions, spirituality, relationships, basic needs, health, learning and leisure). The metaphor of a tree visually illustrates how the domains values, culture and traditions and spirituality form the roots to the other domains that appear to branch out as students navigate the dual worldviews of Native and Western ways of living.

Conclusions: The eight QOL domains and their items identified during focus groups were integrated into a visual model and an objective QOL measure. The hope is to provide a useful tool for developing and evaluating university-based programs and services aimed toward promoting a positive QOL and academic success for AN students.

Keywords: Alaska Native; college students; community-based participatory research; quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology*
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult