Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 21–40 | Cite as

Quality of Life in Old Age: Problematic Issues

  • Rocío Fernández-BallesterosEmail author


Quality of Life (QoL) is a concept widely used in gerontology, as well as in other fields such as anthropology, health sciences, psychology, sociology and political sciences. Historically, although Aristotle is considered as an antecedent, the term QoL emerged in about the sixties in scientific literature. In the field of ageing, it is considered as an outcome of projects, programmes, services or policies and is used for describing populations, contexts and individuals. QoL is considered by most experts as a multidimensional concept involving multiple domains (health, psychological, social and environmental), containing objective and subjective components. Nevertheless, in recent years, QoL has been reduced to the subjective appraisal, to health or to subjective psychological attributes such as well-being, happiness or life satisfaction. Moreover, conceptual confusions can be found between QoL and other concepts related to positive ageing. In this conceptually-driven paper, after reviewing a set of expert and lay conceptualizations of QoL and identifying the diversity of its components, three critical issues will be discussed: its reduction to health or to the subjective appraisal of a set of domains, the confusion of QoL with other subjective or positive concepts and, finally, its methodological reductionism to self-reports as an exclusive procedure for QoL data collection. From these criticisms some conceptual and methodological suggestions are proposed.


Quality of life Old age Well-being Successful ageing 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V./The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychobiology and HealthAutonomous University of MadridMadridSpain

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