How do you measure your “Quality of Life”? If you are healthy, strong, and gainfully employed, your criteria for Quality of Life may include things like the number of apps on your smart phone, the model of your car, the number of parties you attended this Christmas season or the number of invitations you received. But what if your human condition suddenly changes? Would the loss of a job, or a devastating medical condition, or loss of access to healthcare dramatically change your definition for Quality of Life?
Quality of Life is a term defined differently by different folks. Patient groups define Quality of Life differently from healthcare providers, and important criteria for Quality of Life may include pain control, independence, and mobility. Healthcare providers generally look more towards clinical outcomes. But no matter how it is defined, there is evidence of a direct relationship between the magnitude of health issues and the measure of a patient’s Quality of Life. A feeling of “well-being” may also reflect Quality of life.
The Wall Street Journal reported that “researchers are finding links between feelings of well-being and health-care expenditures”. In this study, ‘expenditures’ is a measure of the need for medical intervention. The results of the study show “low scores in well-being assessment had 2.7 times the median annual health expenditures of individuals with high-well being”. This study primarily looked at data from organizations who offered formal well-being programs, however, “studies by other researchers with no ties to well-being programs also show that well-being is associated with reduced health-care costs and other economic advantages such as productivity at work”
Well-being is one focus in healthcare reform. So much so that Gallup has created a “Well-being Index”. Their findings show a decline in the Well-being Index and the “percentages (of people) putting off treatment for a serious or non-serious condition have nearly doubled since 2001”. The delay in medical care has an effect Quality of Life. “Gallup finds more than three in 10 Americans are putting off needed care, even for serious medical issues” and “Even 30% of those with private insurance and 21% of those with Medicare or Medicaid have also had to put off care due to cost”.
Studies on Quality of life by the CDC “demonstrate scientifically the impact of health on quality of life, going well beyond the old paradigm that was limited to what can be seen under a microscope”. Another public health study showed that “increased focus on health-related quality of life in large part reflects the substantial toll imposed by chronic health conditions on both a personal level (e.g., pain and suffering, functional limitations, and reduced productivity) and a societal level (e.g., increased health care costs and other economic costs).” The study concluded that “advances in public health and medicine have increased the average life expectancy in the United States by nearly 30 years… accompanied by a significant rise in the percentage of adults living with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and mental illness.”
This looks like a paradox. Does access to improved healthcare contribute to the decline in the Quality of Life? Or does a decline in the Quality of Life contribute to the need for access to more improved healthcare options? Can a feeling of well-being result in wellness and an improved Quality of life? We are living longer, but are we living better? Does this change your personal definition of “Quality of Life”?