A process-based approach to health-related quality of life as a "way of living"

Qual Life Res. 2023 Sep;32(9):2425-2434. doi: 10.1007/s11136-023-03385-2. Epub 2023 Apr 1.


Introduction: There is an historical initiative to establish common theoretical ground to support a framework for assessing health-related quality of life (HRQL). Our aim was to add to this effort with an analysis of theoretical/philosophical themes embedded in HRQL questionnaires and patient reports.

Methods and results: We reviewed recent developments in HRQL assessment. This included analyzing a representative sample of psychometric measures of HRQL to schematically summarize core theoretical/philosophical themes that are embedded in questionnaire items. This analysis indicated a state-based framework for HRQL that was characterized by themes of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, and desire-satisfaction. In contrast, a review of patient reports of HRQL indicated a process-based framework where goal-directed activities aimed to secure aspirational life goals while striving to accept the reality of declining health. Given this difference in HRQL themes we used a meta-philosophical approach, based on Hadot's idea of philosophy as a way of living, to identify a process-based theoretical framework for HRQL assessment that addressed patient-reported themes. The Stoic modification of eudaimonic well-being was examined where HRQL and well-being are viewed as a process (vs. state) aimed at transforming the experience of loss or grief in response to adversity through goal-directed activities/exercises (euroia biou, good flow in life). We then introduced a complementary research agenda for HRQL assessment that incorporates self-reported, goal-directed activities that are initiated or maintained to promote HRQL.

Conclusion: A process-based approach to HRQL assessment may increase the spectrum of clinically relevant features that currently comprise operational measures of this patient-reported appraisal.

Keywords: Eudaimonia; Health-related quality of life; Hedonia; Life aspirations; Stoicism; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Quality of Life* / psychology
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires