The aim of this essay is to build a bridgebetween two intersecting areas of research,social indicators research on the one hand andhealth-related quality of life research on theother. The first substantive section of thepaper introduces key concepts and definitionsin the social indicators research tradition,e.g., social indicators, positive, negative,input and output indicators, social reports andquality of life. After that, there is asection reviewing some historical origins andmotives of social indicators researchers,beginning roughly with Jeremy Bentham's`felicific calculus' and ending with the searchfor a comprehensive accounting scheme capableof measuring the quality of human existencewith social, economic and environmentalindicators.Results of eleven surveys are reviewed whichwere undertaken to explain happiness on thebasis of levels of satisfaction thatrespondents got from a dozen specific domainsof their lives, e.g., satisfaction with theirjobs, family relations and health. On average,for the eleven samples, we were able to explain38% of the variance in reported happiness fromsome subset of the predictor variables. Satisfaction with one's own health was never the strongest predictor of happiness inany sample. In five of the eleven samples,satisfaction with one's own health failed toenter the final explanatory regression equationfor lack of statistical significance. Theresults in this section of the essay show thatdifferent groups of people with different lifecircumstances, resources and constraints usedifferent mixtures of ingredients to determinetheir happiness.After examining some research revealing therelative importance of people's satisfaction with their health to theiroverall happiness, I consider some studiesrevealing the importance of people's self-reported health to their overallhappiness. Self-reported health is measuredprimarily by the eight dimensions of SF-36.When a variety of additional potentialpredictors are entered into our regressionequation, 44% of the variance in happinessscores is explained, but only one of the eightdimensions of SF-36 remains, namely, MentalHealth. The latter accounts for a mere four%age points out of the total 44. Thus,self-reported health has relatively little tocontribute toward respondents' reportedhappiness, and its measured contribution issignificantly affected by the number and kindsof potential predictors employed.Two approaches to explaining people'ssatisfaction with their own health areconsidered. First, using the same set ofhealth-related potential predictors of overallhappiness, we are able to explain 56% of thevariance in respondents' satisfaction withtheir own health. Then, using MultipleDiscrepancies Theory, we are able to explainabout 51% of the variation in satisfactionwith one's own health scores for 8,076undergraduates, with highs of 76% for a sampleof Finnish females and 72% for Korean males.Accordingly, it is reasonable to conclude thatif one's aim is to explain people'ssatisfaction with their own health, thepotential predictors assembled in MDT canprovide quite a bit and sometimes even moreexplanatory power than a reasonably broad setof measures of self-reported health.In the penultimate section of the essay it isargued that there are good reasons forcarefully distinguishing ideas of health andquality of life, and for not interpreting SF-36and SIP scores as measures of the quality oflife. It is suggested that we might all bebetter off if the term `health-related qualityof life' is simply abandoned. However, sincethis is unlikely to happen, it is stronglyrecommended that researchers be much morecareful with their usage of the phrase andtheir interpretation of purported measures ofwhatever the phrase is supposed to designate.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Allardt, E.: 1975, Att ha, alska, attvara. Om valfard i Norden [Having, Loving, Being. On Welfare in the Nordic Countries] (Borgholm, Argos).
Andorka, R. and István Harcsa: 1990, 'Modernization in Hungary in the long and short run measured by social indicators', Social Indicators Research 23, pp. 1-153.
Andresen, E. M., B. S. Fouts, J. C. Romeis and C. A. Brownson: 1999, 'Performance of health-related quality-of-life instruments in a spinal cord injured population', Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 80, pp. 877-884.
Andresen, E. M., B. M. Rothenberg and R. M. Kaplan: 1998, 'Performance of a self-administered mailed version of the Quality of Well-Being (QWB-SA) questionnaire among older adults', Medical Care 36(9), pp. 1349-1360.
Andrews, F. M.: 1974, 'Social indicators of perceived life quality', Social Indicators Research 1, pp. 279-299.
Andrews, F. M. and S. B. Withey: 1976, Social Indicators of Well-Being (Plenum Press, New York).
Argyle, M.: 1987, The Psychology of Happiness (Routledge, London).
Bardsley, M. J., S. Astell, A. McCallum and P. D. Home: 1993, 'The performance of three measures of health status in an outpatient diabetes population', Diabetic Medicine 10, pp. 619-626.
Bentham, J.: 1789, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (London).
Bergner, M.: 1993, 'Development, testing and use of the Sickness Impact Profile', in S. R. Walker and R. M. Rosser (eds.), Quality of Life Assessment: Key Issues in the 1990s (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht), pp. 95-110.
Bergner, M., R. A. Bobbitt, W. B. Carter and B. S. Gilson: 1981, 'The Sickness Impact Profile: development and final revision of a health status measure', Medical Care 19(8), pp. 787-805.
Birnbacher, D.: 1999, 'Quality of life — evaluation or description', Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2(1), pp. 25-36.
Bradburn, N. M. and D. Caplovitz: 1965, Reports of Happiness (Aldine, Chicago).
Braybrooke, D.: 1967, 'Skepticism of wants, and certain subversive effects of corporations on American values', in S. Hook (ed.), Human Values and Economic Policy (New York University Press, New York), pp. 224-239.
Bruin, A. F. de, L. P. de Witte, F. Stevens and J. P. M. Diederiks: 1992, 'Sickness Impact Profile: The state of the art of a generic functional status measure', Social Science and Medicine 35(8), pp. 1003-1014.
Brunk, C.: 1987, 'Professionalism and responsibility in the technological society', in D. C. Poff and W. J. Waluchow (eds.), Business Ethics in Canada (Prentice-Hall Canada, Toronto), pp. 60-75.
Bunge, M.: 1961, 'The weight of simplicity in the construction and assaying of scientific theories', Philosophy of Science 28, pp. 120-149.
Cella, D. F. et al.: 1993, 'The functional assessment of cancer therapy scale: Development and validation of the general measure', Journal of Clinical Oncology 11(3), pp. 570-579.
Churchill, D. N., J. Morgan and G. W. Torrance: 1984, 'Quality of life in end-state renal disease', Peritoneal Dialysis Bulletin 4, pp. 20-23.
Dewey, J.: 1939, Theory of Valuation (University of Chicago Press, Chicago).
Diabetes Control and Complications Trial: 1988, 'Reliability and validity of a diabetes quality-of-life measure for the diabetes control and complications trial', Diabetes Care 11(9), pp. 725-732.
Diener, E. and R. E. Lucas: 1999, 'Personality and subjective well-being', in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York), pp. 213-229.
Diener, E. and R. E. Lucas: 2000, 'Explaining differences in societal levels of happiness: Relative standards, need fulfillment, culture and evaluation theory', Journal of Happiness Studies 1, pp. 41-78.
Eiser, C. and J. E. Tooke: 1993, 'Quality-of-life evaluation in diabetes', PharmacoEconomics 4(2), pp. 85-91.
Fairbank, J. C. T. et al.: 1980, 'The Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability questionnaire', Physiotherapy 66, pp. 271-273.
Ferriss, A.: 1990, 'Whatever happened, indeed!', Journal of Public Policy 9, pp. 401-405.
Fletcher, A. E., B. M. Hunt and C. J. Bulpitt: 1987, 'Evaluation of quality of life in clinical trials of cardiovascular disease', Journal of Chronic Diseases 40(6), pp. 557-566.
Fox, K. A.: 1985, Social System Accounts: Linking Social and Economic Indicators Through Tangible Behavior Settings (D. Reidel, Dordrecht).
Guyatt, G. H., M. Townsend, L. B. Berman and S. O. Pugsley: 1987, 'Quality of life in patients with chronic airflow limitation', British Journal of Diseases of the Chest 81, pp. 45-54.
Guyatt, G. H., S. J. O. Veldhuyzen Van Zanten, D. H. Feeny and D. L. Patrick: 1989, 'Measuring quality of life in clinical trials: A taxonomy and review', Canadian Medical Association Journal 140, pp. 1441-1448.
Hagerty, M. R. et al.: 2001, 'Quality of life indexes for national policy: Review and agenda for research', Social Indicators Research 55, pp. 1-96.
Hanestad, B. R.: 1990, 'Errors of measurement affecting the reliability and validity of data acquired from self-assessed quality of life', Scandanavian Journal of Caring Sciences 4(1), pp. 29-34.
Hörnquist, J. O.: 1989, 'Quality of life: Concept and assessment', Scandanavian Journal of Social Medicine 18, pp. 69-79.
Idler, E. L. and Y. Benyamini: 1997, 'Self-rated health and mortality: A review of twenty-seven community studies', Journal of Health and Social Behavior 38, pp. 21-37.
Ingersoll, G. M. and D. G. Marrero: 1991, 'A modified quality-of-life measure for youths: Psychometric properties', The Diabetes Educator 17(2), pp. 114-118.
Jacobson, A. M., M. de Groot and J. A. Samson: 1994, 'The evaluation of two measures of quality of life in patients with type I and type II diabetes', Diabetes Care 17(4), pp. 267-274.
James, W.: 1909, The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to Pragmatism (Longmans, Green and Co., New York).
James, W.: 1977 (originally published 1891), 'The moral philosopher and the moral life', in J. J. McDermott (ed.), The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition (University of Chicago Press, Chicago), pp. 610-629.
Juster, F. T. and K. C. Land: 1981, Social Accounting Systems: Essays on the State of the Art (Academic Press, New York).
Karl, B. D.: 1974, Charles E. Merriam and the Study of Politics (University of Chicago Press, Chicago).
Land, K.: 1983, 'Social indicators', Annual Review of Sociology 9, pp. 1-26.
League For Social Reconstruction Research Committee: 1935, Social Planning for Canada (Thomas Nelson, Toronto).
Lewis, C. I.: 1946, Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation (Open Court, LaSalle).
MacRae, D.: 1985, Policy Indicators: Links between Social Science and Public Debate (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill).
McDowell, I. and C. Newell: 1996, Measuring Health: A Guide to Rating Scales and Questionnaires (Oxford University Press, New York).
McDowell, I. and E. Praught: 1982, 'On the measurement of happiness: an examination of the Bradburn scale in the Canada Health Survey', American Journal of Epidemiology 116(6), pp. 949-958.
McSweeny, A. J. et al.: 1982, 'Life quality of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease', Archives of Internal Medicine 142, pp. 473-478.
Michalos, A. C.: 1967, 'Postulates of rational preference', Philosophy of Science 34, pp. 18-22.
Michalos, A. C.: 1969, Principles of Logic (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs).
Michalos, A. C.: 1970a, 'Decision making in committees', American Philosophical Quarterly 7, pp. 91-106.
Michalos, A.C.: 1970b, 'Cost-benefit versus expected utility acceptance rules', Theory and Decision 1, pp. 61-88.
Michalos, A. C.: 1970c, 'The impossibility of an ordinal measure of acceptability', Philosophical Forum 2, pp. 103-106.
Michalos, A. C.: 1970d, 'The costs of decision making', Public Choice 9, pp. 39-51.
Michalos, A. C.: 1979, 'The loyal agent's argument', in T. Beauchamp and N. Bowie (eds.), Ethical Theory and Business (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs), pp. 247-253. Reprinted in Michalos 1995.
Michalos, A. C.: 1978, Foundations of Decision-Making (Canadian Library of Philosophy, Ottawa).
Michalos, A. C.: 1980, North American Social Report, Vol. 1: Foundations, Population and Health (D. Reidel, Dordrecht).
Michalos, A. C.: 1985, 'Multiple discrepancies theory (MDT)', Social Indicators Research 16, pp. 347-413.
Michalos, A. C.: 1988, 'Integrated development planning using socio-economic and quality of life indicators', in Innovative Approaches to Development Planning (UNESCO, Paris), pp. 113-216.
Michalos, A. C.: 1990, 'The impact of trust on business, international security and the quality of life', Journal of Business Ethics 9, pp. 619-638. Reprinted in Michalos 1995.
Michalos, A. C.: 1991, Global Report on Student Well-Being, Vol. 1: Life Satisfaction and Happiness (Springer-Verlag, New York).
Michalos, A. C.: 1991a, Global Report on Student Well-Being, Vol. 2: Family, Friends, Living Partner and Self-Esteem (Springer-Verlag, New York).
Michalos, A. C.: 1992, 'Ethical considerations in evaluation', Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation 7, pp. 61-75. Reprinted in Michalos 1995.
Michalos, A. C.: 1993, Global Report on Student Well-Being, Vol. 3: Employment, Finances, Housing and Transportation (Springer-Verlag, New York).
Michalos, A. C.: 1993a, Global Report on Student Well-Being, Vol. 4: Religion, Education, Recreation and Health (Springer-Verlag, New York).
Michalos, A. C.: 1995, A Pragmatic Approach to Business Ethics (SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks).
Michalos, A. C.: 1997, 'Combining social, economic and environmental indicators to measure sustainable human well-being', Social Indicators Research 40, pp. 221-258.
Michalos, A. C.: 1999, 'Reflections on twenty-five years of quality-of-life research', Feminist Economics 5(2), pp. 119-123.
Michalos, A. C.: 2001, 'Ethics counselors as a new priesthood', Journal of Business Ethics 29, pp. 3-17.
Michalos, A. C., A. Hubley, B. D. Zumbo and D. Hemingway: 2001, 'Health and other aspects of the quality of life of older people', Social Indicators Research 54(1), p. xxx.
Michalos, A. C. and B. D. Zumbo: 1999, 'Public services and the quality of life', Social Indicators Research 48, pp. 125-156.
Michalos, A. C. and B. D. Zumbo: 2001, 'Ethnicity, modern prejudice and the quality of life', Social Indicators Research 53, pp. 189-222.
Michalos, A. C. and B. D. Zumbo: tbe, 'Leisure activities, health and the quality of life'.
Michalos, A. C., B. D. Zumbo and A. Hubley: 2000, 'Health and the quality of life', Social Indicators Research 51, pp. 245-286.
Mitchell, W. C.: 1918, 'Bentham's felicific calculus', Political Science Quarterly 33, pp. 161-183.
Najman, J. M. and S. Levine: 1981, 'Evaluating the impact of medical care and technologies on the quality of life: A review and critique', Social Science and Medicine 15F, pp. 107-115.
Nerenz, D. R., D. P. Repasky, F. W. Whitehouse and D. M. Kahkonen: 1992, 'Ongoing assessment of health status in patients with diabetes mellitus', Medical Care 30(5)(Supplement), pp. MS112-MS124.
Noll, H.-H. and W. Zapf: 1994, 'Social indicators research: Societal monitoring and social reporting', in I. Borg and P. Ph. Mohler (eds.), Trends and Perspectives in Empirical Social Research (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin).
Nord, E., T. Arnesen, P. Menzel and Jose-Luis Pinto: 2001, 'Towards a more restricted use of the term “quality of life”', Quality of Life Newsletter 26, pp. 3-4.
Nussbaum, M. C. and A. Sen (eds.): 1993, The Quality of Life (Clarendon Press, Oxford).
Patrick, D. L. and R. A. Deyo: 1989, 'Generic and disease-specific measures in assessing health status and quality of life', Medical Care 27(3), pp. s217-s232.
Perry, R. B.: 1926, General Theory of Value (Harvard University Press, Cambridge).
Perry, R. B.: 1954, Realms of Value (Harvard University Press, Cambridge).
Pilowsky, I. et al.: 1983, 'The illness behavior assessment schedule: Reliability and validity', International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine 13, pp. 11-28.
Poff, D. C.: 1987, 'The loyal agent's argument revisited', in D. C. Poff and W. J. Waluchow (eds.), Business Ethics in Canada (Prentice-Hall Canada, Toronto), pp. 142-144.
President's Research Committee on Social Trends: 1933, Recent Social Trends in the United States, Vols. 1 and 2 (McGraw-Hill, New York).
Prigatano, G. P., E. C. Wright and D. Levin: 1984, 'Quality of life and its predictors in patients with mild hypoxemia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease', Archives of Internal Medicine 144, pp. 1613-1619.
Radloff, L. S.: 1977, 'The CES-D scale: A self-report deporession scale for research in the general population', Applied Psychological Measurement 1, pp. 385-401.
Renwick, R. and I. Brown: 1996, 'The Centre for Health Promotion's conceptual approach to quality of life', in R. Renwick, I. Brown and M. Nagler (eds.), Quality of Life in Health Promotion and Rehabilitation: Conceptual Approaches, Issues and Applications (SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks), pp. 75-86.
Sandvik, E., E. Diener and L. Seidlitz: 1993, 'Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures', Journal of Personality 61, pp. 317-342.
Schilpp, P. A. (ed.): 1963, The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap (Open Court, LaSalle).
Schipper, H. et al.: 1984, 'Measuring the quality of life of cancer patients: The Functional Living Index — Cancer: Development and validation', Journal of Clinical Oncology 2, pp. 472-483.
Schwarz, N. and H. Bless, 1992, 'Constructing reality and its alternatives: Assimilation and contrast effects', in L. L. Marting and A. Tesser (eds.), The Construction of Social Judgment (Erlbaum: Hillsdale, N.J.), pp. 217-245.
Schwarz, N. and G. L. Clore, 1983, 'Mood, misattribution, and judgments of well-being: Informative and directive functions of affective states', Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 45, pp. 513-523.
Schwarz, N. and F. Strack: 1999, 'Reports of subjective well-being: Judgmental processes and their methodological implications', in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York), pp. 61-84.
Schwarz, N. and F. Strack: 1991, 'Evaluating one's life: A judgment model of subjective well-being', in F. Strack, M. Argyle and N. Schwarz (eds.), Subjective Well-Being: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (Pergamon, Oxford), pp. 27-47.
Sirgy, J.: in press, Handbook of Quality-of-Life Research: An Ethical Marketing Perspective (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht).
Solomon, E.: 1980, Consultation of Research Network on the Quality of Life, Division for Socio-Economic Analysis, UNESCO, Paris, 3–5 December.
Sprangers, M. A. G.: 1996, 'Response-shift bias: A challenge to the assessment of patients' quality of life in cancer clinical trials', Cancer Treatment Reviews 22(Supplement A), pp. 55-62.
Sprangers, M. A. G. and C. E. Schwartz: 1999, 'Integrating response shift into health-related quality of life research: A theoretical model', Social Science and Medicine 48, pp. 1507-1515.
Tatarkiewicz, W.: 1976, Analysis of Happiness (M. Nijhoff, Hague).
Taylor, S. E. and J. D. Brown: 1988, 'Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health', Psychological Bulletin 103, pp. 193-210.
Torrance, G. W.: 1986, 'Measurement of health state utilities for economic appraisal', Journal of Health Economics 5, pp. 1-30.
Veenhoven, R.: 1984, Conditions of Happiness (D. Reidel, Dordrecht).
Veenhoven, R. and P. Ouweneel: 1995, 'Livability of the welfare-state, appreciation-of-life and length-of-life in nations varying in state-welfare-effort', Social Indicators Research 36, pp. 1-49.
Verbrugge, L. M., S. S. Merrill and X. Liu: 1999, 'Measuring disability with parsimony', Disability and Rehabilitation 21(5/6), pp. 295-306.
Vogel, J.: 1994, 'Social indicators and social reporting', Statistical Journal of the United Nations ECE 11, pp. 241-260.
Ware, J. E., K. K. Snow, M. Kosinski and B. Gandek: 1993, SF-36 Health Survey: Manual and Interpretation Guide (The Health Institute, New England Medical Center, Boston).
About this article
Cite this article
Michalos, A.C. Social Indicators Research and Health-Related Quality of Life Research. Social Indicators Research 65, 27–72 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025592219390
- Social Indicator
- Social Indicator Research
- Social Report
- Eleven Sample
- Quality Oflife