Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 1–39 | Cite as

The Four Qualities of Life

  • Ruut Veenhoven


The terms 'quality-of-life', 'well-being' and 'happiness' denote different meanings; sometimes they are used as an umbrella term for all of value, and at other times to denote special merits. This paper is about the specific meanings of the terms. It proposes a classification based on two bi-partitions; between life 'chances' and life 'results', and between 'outer' and 'inner' qualities. Together these dichotomies imply four qualities of life: 1) livability of the environment, 2) life-ability of the individual, 3) external utility of life and 4) inner appreciation of life.

This fourfold matrix is applied in three ways: firstly to place related notions and alternative classifications, secondly to explore substantive meanings in various measures for quality of life and thirdly to find out whether quality-of-life can be measured comprehensively. This last question is answered in the negative. Current sum-scores make little sense. The most inclusive measure is still how long and happily people live.

quality of life utility happiness well-being 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruut Veenhoven
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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