Social Indicators Research

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 103-136

First online:

A human ecological approach to quality of life: Conceptual framework and results of a preliminary study

  • Margaret M. BubolzAffiliated withMichigan State UniversityUniversity of MinnesotaNorth Dakota State University
  • , Joanne B. EicherAffiliated withMichigan State UniversityUniversity of MinnesotaNorth Dakota State University
  • , Sandra J. EversAffiliated withMichigan State UniversityUniversity of MinnesotaNorth Dakota State University
  • , M. Suzanne SontagAffiliated withMichigan State UniversityUniversity of MinnesotaNorth Dakota State University

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A human ecological framework for study of quality of life is proposed and used in the study of the QOL of a rural sample in northern Michigan. The framework is based on an ecosystem, i.e., the interaction of humans, the environed units, with their interrelated environments. These are conceptualized as: natural, human constructed and human behavioral. Quality of life indicators can measure aspects of the environed units, environments, and their interaction.

Scales to measure perceived overall quality of life (POQL), community satisfaction (COMSAT), and the importance of and satisfaction with selected life concerns (SALI and SALS) were used. The life concerns represented human needs, attributes of the self, conditions and resources of the three environments, or implied interaction with or action upon the environment. Objectives were to study how these life concerns contributed to POQL; the relationship between SALI and SALS ratings and how this influenced POQL; the relationship between COMSAT and POQL; and whether or not satisfaction with these two variables varied by demographic characteristics.

A relatively high POQL was found; those with higher incomes and children living at home had higher scores. COMSAT was also generally high, but did not vary by demographic characteristics. POQL and COMSAT were significantly related. Family life, health, safety, house, and financial security ranked highest in importance; clothing, spare time activities, and fun ranked lowest. Family life, religious faith, food work, and safety ranked highest in satisfaction; national government, financial security, developing oneself, health, and an interesting life ranked the lowest. The various life concerns appear) to behave differently in regard to how the discrepancy between importance of a concern and satisfaction with it influences overall quality of life.

Satisfaction with accomplishments, family life, work and financial security accounted for over half the variance in POQL. These represent essential human needs which are satisfied with resources of the near environment, suggesting the salience of one's most proximate environment to evaluation of quality of life.

Findings, while preliminary, illustrate the viability of a human ecological model as a unifying framework for conceptualization and measurement of quality of life. Further specification and elaboration of the model are indicated.