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Favourites on Quality of Life
Happiness depends upon ourselves
Donald Patrick, PhD, MSPH
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA 


These two quotes from Aristotle1 have taught me a great deal about “quality of life”.


“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”


“When it comes to saying in what happiness consists, opinions differ, and the account given by the generality of mankind is not at all like that of the wise.
      The former takes it to be something obvious and familiar, like pleasure or money or eminence, and there are various other views, and often the same person actually changes his opinion.
    When he falls ill, he says that it is his health, and when he is hard up he says that it is money.” 2


Here is what has caught my attention over the years.

“Quality of life” can mean more than happiness, but the current focus on happiness in the social sciences, in literature and in popular thought makes it central any idea of add to between central and any measuring quality to life as a subjective phenomenon.

The first quote positions happiness within the person and suggests that each person has the opportunity of finding happiness.  The quote also suggests that it is dependent on our viewpoint and is a construction inside ourselves.  Of course, the environment around us influences us.  It is our total position in life from whence we view the world in its infinite variety and decide how happy we are. 

The second quote shines light on patient-important outcomes or health and happiness.  When life is going smoothly, happiness is thought by most as pleasure, money, or power.  This resonates with me watching my own levels of happiness and that of others.  It is why some outcome researchers equate quality of life with health. When illness strikes, health is central and when one comes upon a rough patch financially, money takes precedence.  The two can also be interconnected in some societies, most notably in the United States where health care coverage is dependent upon employment for private health insurance, military service, age, or economic status for eligibility to subsidized health programs.

That we change our opinion is consistent with the first quote.  Quality of life is what the person thinks it is and is dependent on ourselves.


1 Aristotle: Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC)

Nichomachean Ethics, Book 1, The Object of Life,
   by Aristotle (Author), Hugh Tredennick (Editor), Jonathan Barnes (Introduction), J. A. K. Thomson 
   (Translator).  London and New York:  Penquin Classics, 2004



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