Skip to main content

Objective and Subjective Quality of Life: an Interactive Model

Abstract

This paper reviews the relationship between objective and subjective quality of life indicators. It proposes that the interaction of these variables occurs within a system that homeostatically maintains subjective quality of life within a narrow range. Due to the capacity of this system to adapt to varying environmental circumstances, the objective and subjective indicators are normally poorly correlated. However, it is also proposed that very poor objective conditions can defeat homeostasis and, once this occurs, the objective and subjective indicators display stronger covariation. Empirical data are provided to support this model and the implications for understanding the QOL construct are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Andrews, F. M., and Withey, S. B.: 1976, Social indicators of well-being: America’s perceptions of life quality (Plenum Press, New York).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Borthwick-Duffy, S. A.: 1992, ‘Quality of life and quality of care in mental retardation’, in L. Rowitz (ed.), Mental Retardation in the Year 2000 (Springer-Verlag, New York), pp. 52-66.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Boyer, R. and Savageau, D.: 1981, Places Rated almanac (Rand McNally, Chicago).

    Google Scholar 

  • Brief, A. P., Butcher, A. H., George, J. M. and Link, K. E.: 1993, ‘Integrating bottom-up and top-down theories of subjective well-being: The case of health’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64(4), pp. 646-653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bulger, M. W., Wandersman, A. and Goldman, C. R.: 1993, ‘Burdens and gratifications of caregiving: Appraisal of parental care of adults with schizophrenia’, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 63(2), pp, 255-265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, A.: 1974, ‘Quality of life is a psychological phenomenon’, in: B. Strumpel (ed.) Subjective Elements of Well-Being (OECD, Paris), pp. 9-19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chaney, J. M., Mullins, L. L., Uretsky, D. L., Doppler, M. J., Palmer, W. R., Wees, S. J., Klein, H. S., Doud, D. K. and Reiss, M. J.: 1996, ‘Attributional style ad depression in rheumatoid arthritis: The moderating role of perceived illness control’, Rehabilitation Psychology 41(3), pp. 205-223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Christensen, K. A., Parris Stephens, M. A. and Townsend, A. L.: 1998, ‘Mastery in women’s multiple roles and well-being: Adult daughters providing care to impaired patients’, Health Psychology 17(2), pp. 163-171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cummins, R. A.: 1995, ‘On the trail of the gold standard for subjective wellbeing’, Social Indicators Research 35, pp. 179-200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cummins, R. A.: 1996, ‘The domains of life satisfaction: An attempt to order chaos’, Social Indicators Research 38, pp. 303-332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cummins, R. A.: 1997, ‘The Comprehensive Quality of Life Scale (ComQol)’. Fifth Edition (School of Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne).

    Google Scholar 

  • Cummins, R. A.: 1998a, ‘Quality of life definition and terminology’, in: web pages: www.cob.vt.edu/market/isquols/bibres.htm (The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, Blackburg, Virginia).

    Google Scholar 

  • Cummins, R. A.: 1998b, ‘The second approximation to an international standard for life satisfaction’, Social Indicators Research 43, pp. 307-334.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cummins, R. A.: 1999, ‘Normative life satisfaction: Measurement issues and a homeostatic model’, in: B. Zumbo (ed.) Methodological Development and Issues in Quality of Life Research (Kluwar (in press), Amsterdam).

    Google Scholar 

  • Cummins, R. A. and Nistico, H.: 1999, Maintaining Life Satisfaction: The Role of Positive Cognitive Bias (submitted).

  • Diener, E., Sandvik, E., Seidlitz, L. and Diener, M.: 1993, ‘The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute’, Social Indicators Research 28, pp. 195-223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E., Diener, M. and Diener, C.: 1995, ‘Factors predicting the subjective well-being of nations’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69, pp. 851-864.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Durning, A. T.: 1993, ‘Are we happy yet?’, The Futurist 27, pp. 20-24.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edgerton, R. B.: 1990, ‘Quality of life from a longitudinal research perspective’, in R. L. Schalock (ed.) Quality of life: Perspectives and issues (American Association on Mental Retardation), pp. 145-160.

  • Evans, D. R.: 1994, ‘Enhancing quality of life in the population at large’, Social Indicators Research 33, pp. 47-88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fuhrer, M. J., Rintala, D. H., Hart, K. A., Clearman, R. and Young, M. E. 1992, ‘Relationship of life satisfaction to impairment, disability, and handicap among persons with spinal cord injury living in the community’, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 73, pp. 552-557.

    Google Scholar 

  • Glatzer, W.: 1991, ‘Quality of life in advanced industrialized countries: The case of West Germany’, in F. Strack, M. Argyle and N. Schwarz (eds.) Subjective Well-Being: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (Plenum Press, New York), pp. 261-279.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harlow, R. E. and Cantor, N.: 1996, ‘Still participating after all these years: A study of life task participation in later life’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 71, pp. 1235-1249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Headey, B. and Wearing, A.: 1989, ‘Personality, life events, and subjective well-being: Toward a dynamic equilibrium model’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57, pp. 731-739.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Headey, B. and Wearing, A.: 1992, Understanding happiness: A Theory of Subjective Well-Being (Longman Cheshire, Melbourne).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hepworth, S. J.: 1980, ‘Moderating factors of the psychological impact of unemployment’, Journal of Occupational Psychology 53, pp. 139-145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Judge, T. A. and Locke, E. A.: 1993, ‘Effect of dysfunctional thought processes on subjective well-being and job satisfaction’, Journal of Applied Psychology 7, pp. 475-490.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Judge, T. A. and Watanabe, S.: 1993, ‘Another look at the job satisfaction-life satisfaction relationship’, Journal of Applied Psychology 78, pp. 939-948.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kelley, J. and Evans, M. D. R.: 1996a, ‘Step-parenting in Australia, 1996’. Worldwide Attitudes, 1996-04-29.

  • Kelley, J. and Evans, M. D. R.: 1996b, ‘Is independence rewarding? Husbands’ earnings, wives’ earnings, and life satisfaction’, Worldwide Attitudes 1996-04-02.

  • LaBarbera, P. A. and Gürhan, Z.: 1997, ‘The role of materialism, religiosity, and demographics in subjective well-being’, Psychology and Marketing 14, pp. 71-97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larson, R.: 1978, ‘Thirty years of research on the subjective well-being of older Americans’, Journal of Gerontology 33, pp. 109-125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lawton, M. P.: 1991, ‘A multidimensional view of quality of life in frail elders’, in: J. E. Birren, J. e. Lubben, J. c. Rowe and D. D. Deutchman (eds.) The Concept and Measurement of Quality of Life in the Frail Elderly (Academic Press, San Diego, CA), pp. 3-27.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell, R. E.: 1971, ‘Some social implications of high density housing’, American Sociological Review 36, pp. 18-29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mookherjee, H. N.: 1992, ‘Perceptions of well-being by metropolitan and nonmetropolitan populations in the United States’, Journal of Social Psychology 132, pp. 513-524.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Muoghalu, L. N.: 1991, ‘Measuring housing and environmental quality as indicator of quality of urban life: A case of traditional city of Benin, Nigeria’, Social Indicators Research, 25, pp. 63-98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oliver, J., Huxley, P., Bridges, K. and Mohamad, H. 1996, Quality of Life and Mental Health Services (Routledge, London).

    Google Scholar 

  • Pollner, M.: 1989, ‘Divine relations, social relations, and well-being’, Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 30, pp. 92-104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Romney, D. M., Brown, R. I. and Fry, P. S.: 1994, Improving the quality of life: Prescriptions for change’, Social Indicators Research 33, pp. 237-272.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schnek, Z. M., Foley, F. W., LaRocca, N. G., Gordon, W. a., DeLuca, J., Schwartzman, H. G., Halper, J., Lennox, S. and Irvine, J.: 1997, Helphlessness, self-efficacy, cognitive distortions, and depression in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury,’ Annals of Behavioral Medicine 19(3), pp. 287-294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seltzer, M. M., Krauss, M. W., Walsh, P., Conliffe, C., Larson, B., Birkbeck, G., Hong, J. and Choi, S. C.: 1995, ‘Cross-national comparisons of ageing mothers of adults with intellectual disabilities’, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research 39, pp. 408-418.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shin, D. C. and Johnson, D. M.: 1978, ‘Avowed happiness as an overall assessment of the quality of life’, Social Indicators Research 5, pp. 475-492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Strumpel, B.: 1973, ‘Economic life styles, values and subjective welfare’, in: E. B. Sheldon (ed.) Family Economic Behavior: Problems and Prospects (J. B. Liffincott, Philadelphia), pp. 69-138.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thompson, S. C., Thomas, C., Rickabaugh, C. A., Tantamjarik, P., Otsuki, T., Pan, D., Garcia, B. F. and Sinar, E.: 1998, ‘Primary and secondary control over age-related changes in physical appearance’, Journal of Personality 66, pp. 583-605.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodruff, S. I. and Conway, T. L.: 1992, ‘Impact of health and fitness-related behavior on quality of life’, Social Indicators Research 26, pp. 391-405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zautra, A.: 1983, ‘Social resources and the quality of life’, American Journal of Community Psychology 11, pp. 275-290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zautra, A. J., Burleson, M. H., Blalock, S., De Vellis, R. F., De Vellis, B. M., Smith, C. A., Wallston, K. A. and Smith, T. W.: 1995, ‘Arthritis and perceptions of quality of life: An examination of positive and negative affect in rheumatoid arthritis patients’, Health psychology 14, pp. 399-408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cummins, R.A. Objective and Subjective Quality of Life: an Interactive Model. Social Indicators Research 52, 55–72 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007027822521

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007027822521

  • subjective quality of life
  • objective quality of life
  • homeostasis
  • threshold
  • living conditions