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What Is the Difference between Standard of Living and Quality of Life?

Esther Ejim
Updated: May 16, 2024

Standard of living and quality of life are two similar concepts that seem as if they may be used interchangeably. The fact is that the two are different and are defined by factors that are distinct. While standard of living is more concerned with a predetermined, artificial status that has become accepted as a measure of good living, quality of life is focused on more intangible objects that do not necessarily depend on wealth.

The measures for a good standard of living may either be local, national or international. In this sense, what may pass as a good standard of living in a local municipality may fail to measure up in a national test. A standard that is accepted by one country as an indicator of a good standard of living may also miss the mark when it is measured against accepted international standards. Quality of life has a more universal theme because those things are are considered necessary for a good one are frequently common across countries.

In order to fully understand the two concepts, it is necessary to know some of the attributes of standard of living and quality of life. Some of the factors that may readily come to mind when measuring standard of living include income, good housing, good employment opportunities, high gross domestic product (GDP), low inflation, vacations, and security. Indicators of quality of life include factors like freedom of speech and movement; the right to religion, employment, dignity and privacy; peace of mind; and general contentment and wellbeing. It may be argued that quality of life can be enhanced by a good standard of living, but it is also important to note that even without all of the material items, a person's quality of life may still be maintained.

One way in which the two concepts intersect is in the measurement for the development of a country. Most of the attributes of both are often found more in developed countries than in less-developed ones. As such, places where the majority of the citizens have access to the factors that make up each concept may be said to be developed.

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Esther Ejim
By Esther Ejim
Esther Ejim, a visionary leader and humanitarian, uses her writing to promote positive change. As the founder and executive director of a charitable organization, she actively encourages the well-being of vulnerable populations through her compelling storytelling. Esther's writing draws from her diverse leadership roles, business experiences, and educational background, helping her to create impactful content.
Discussion Comments
By MrsPramm — On Jun 09, 2014

@browncoat - It is interesting the way the two concepts interact. If your children are vaccinated, is that a higher standard of living? What if you refuse to get them vaccinated and are legally allowed to do so? There are countries where it is mandatory for all children to be vaccinated whether the parents want them to be or not and disease rates have dropped considerably in those countries. Does that mean the standard has risen and the quality of life (which includes the freedom to make medical choices) has dropped? It's never that simple.

By browncoat — On Jun 09, 2014

@pleonasm - That's a complex problem, though and I don't think it can be traced directly to quality of life. Or, if it can, it might simply be that people on the edge of survival don't have time to think about suicide.

Quality of life shouldn't just be about how happy someone seems to be. Any person who is a refugee is likely suffering from a low standard of living and quality of life, because they don't have freedom or material wealth.

I do think that quality of life is an important factor to take into account and that happiness and freedom should be important to policy planners in any country, but I also think that a certain guaranteed standard of living is more important.

By pleonasm — On Jun 08, 2014

I always find it touching how people who are living in poverty might still have a better quality of life than people who are living in wealthy circumstances.

I remember watching a documentary once where a woman was proudly showing the interviewer how pretty the sun looked coming through the plastic that was draped over her tent. She and her family were refugees, but she was still trying to make her place a home and was a gracious and happy host.

I've also heard that rates of suicide are much higher in developed countries which says something as well.

Esther Ejim
Esther Ejim
Esther Ejim, a visionary leader and humanitarian, uses her writing to promote positive change. As the founder and...
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