In recent years several investigators have developed procedures for measuring the quality of life of individuals. This paper focuses on an empirical approach to defining the main determinants of quality of life and the development and application of procedures for surveying the importance of each component in representative samples of 3 age groups of Americans. These age groups included those persons 30, 50, and 70 years of age. The survey also included reports by these persons concerning the extent to which their needs and wants were met with respect to each of these components. By using the critical incident technique it was found that there were 15 components that included all of the 6,500 activities and experiences reported by a wide variety of Americans from various geographic areas as contributing either positively or negatively to their quality of life. In the survey of 500 men and 500 women at each of the 3 age levels it was found that the 5 dimensions they most frequently described as important included: health, children, understanding yourself, work, and spouse. The 5 dimensions for which they reported their needs and wants were least well met were: participating in government, active recreation, learning and education, creative expression, and helping others. The 5 dimensions that correlated most highly with their reports of overall quality of life at present were: material comforts, work, health, active recreation, and learning and education. Suggestions are made for revising these procedures for use with persons with a disability to improve their quality of life.