The Four Qualities of Life Ordering Concepts and Measures of the Good Life

  • Ruut Veenhoven
Part of the Happiness Studies Book Series book series (HAPS)


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 



I thank the following colleagues for their helpful comments: Ruud Abma, Joop Ehrhardt, Henk DeHeer, Ems Lans, Roelof Hortulanus, Jan Ott, K. Schinkel, Peggy Schyns and Theo VanWilligenburg.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.North-West UniversityMmabathoSouth Africa

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