Electronic Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities (EJPAU) founded by all Polish Agriculture Universities presents original papers and review articles relevant to all aspects of agricultural sciences. It is target for persons working both in science and industry,regulatory agencies or teaching in agricultural sector. Covered by IFIS Publishing (Food Science and Technology Abstracts), ELSEVIER Science - Food Science and Technology Program, CAS USA (Chemical Abstracts), CABI Publishing UK and ALPSP (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publisher - full membership). Presented in the Master List of Thomson ISI.
Volume 8
Issue 4
Koreleski D. 2005. LIFE QUALITY PERCEPTION, EJPAU 8(4), #77.
Available Online: http://www.ejpau.media.pl/volume8/issue4/art-77.html


Dariusz Koreleski
Department of Economics, Agricultural University of Cracow, Poland



The paper presents different aspects of life quality perception. The quantitative and qualitative approaches have been presented. Main differences of life quality perception referring to the households in the city and in the rural areas have been shown. The author also described the Japanese “5 S” concept and the so-called “Quality circles”. The main aim of the paper was to show (using different approaches of qualitative, as well as quantitative character) how life quality may be perceived in comparison to the standard of living. Presenting life quality in a household the author stressed the role of the following factors: human factor, material factor and socio-economic activity factor. The sense of the Japanese 5 S concept was to underline the Far East philosophy of life, where the man involved in activity, improves all aspects of life according to the feedback rule, i.e. restlessly.

Key words: life quality, perception, qualitative approach, quantitative approach, living standard, welfare, household, concept.


The problem of the quality of life is an old issue, which has often been an object of controversy. It is an effect of different perception of this subject, resulting from very wide subjectivity. The article is an attempt to present the main determinants of life quality, depending on various situations related to the dimension of time, space, economical status, habits etc. There are no doubts about the fact that life quality is a subjective category and its perception is differentiated. This paper is just to show the various possibilities of perceiving life quality and intends to present the most important criteria influencing this perception. Life quality entails the problem of a household treated as a group of individuals who live together in a dwelling or its part and make common provision for living, keep a house, are completely or partially united and spend the funds. These individuals need not be related to each other, what means that a household can also consist of one person.


The beginning of the 21st century is characterized by the transition from the stage of fascination by technical and economical progress to reflection on the benefits and threats that new civilization has in store for us. Thus, not only the material standard of living has been considered, but also the emotional, mental, spiritual & moral state of a man who both benefits from various accomplishments of civilization and, at the same time, suffers because of the disadvantages that this civilization brings [17].

There exist many notions in the terminology related to the so called “life quality”. Some of them are of a qualitative sense, but some have rather quantitative meaning. Referring to the quantitative ones, we may distinguish such as: economic welfare, living conditions, living standard and wealth, whereas in the qualitative sense we may point out: way of living, lifestyle and of course – quality of life.

Beginning with the quantitative approach – such notions as economic welfare or living standard refer to the state & rate at which social existential and cultural needs are met, depending on their disposable income. Hence, meeting the needs is achieved by providing certain goods and services whose number, as well as quality have intrinsic influence on living conditions, which in a synthetic way may be treated as living standard. All the elements within the quantitative approach are, however, of objective character and do not yet denote the full quality of life since they are understood as objectively standard needs. Thus, satisfying the needs in proper quantity should result in a proportionally high living standard. The cultural needs are treated as a certain standard of behaviour, of the “keep-up-with-the Joneses” type. These needs aspire to the higher levels in Maslow’s Pyramid, but only apparently so. In order to notice the differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches, it is best to look at a shortened version of this pyramid.

Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs (before the next stage above can be reached, each progressive stage underneath should first be completed) [1, 5]:

  1. Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comfort, etc.
  2. Safety / security: out of danger.
  3. Belonginess and Love: to affiliate with others, be accepted.
  4. Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.
  5. Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore.
  6. Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty.
  7. Self-actualization: to find self-fulfilment and realize one’s potential.
  8. Transcendence: to help others find self-fulfilment and realize their potential.

In case of the qualitative aspect such notions as: quality of life, way of life and lifestyle will be of utmost importance.

There is a widespread conviction that quality of life may be determined by the level of the fulfilment of all human needs, wants and cravings, related to people’s functioning, self-fulfilment and development of personality, which in turn refers to the top elements of Maslow’s Pyramid. Life quality is related to basic human needs such as biological, socio-economic relations and, especially, to emotional needs of man to be in society. Life quality depends on lifestyle and life philosophy. Many authors perceive this issue in different ways. For example, according to Bywalec [2] – life quality (treated as a sum of individual feeling and assessment of the existing living conditions) is the degree of overall satisfaction with human existence. According to Gutkowska [7], the essence of life quality may be narrowed to the subjective assessment of the mutual family relations and the fulfilment of marital and family roles. According to Miluska [14] the concept of life quality may refer to the subjective conviction about the degree of realisation of needs, whereas the feeling of life quality may be measured in the dimension of mental comfort or discomfort. We may also come across such definitions as the one maintaining that life quality simply means the whole of those goods, services, situations and states which determine the essence of human life [9]. So it may be said that life quality is the degree of satisfaction that a man may obtain in different spheres of life (fields of activity).

Stabilisation in family and professional life seems to be one of the more important determinants of life quality, unfortunately often neglected. In case of living standard, which depends on the level of pay, illegal employment with regard to the unemployed does not yet denote the deprived standard of living. The problem lies in the fact, that life quality of a society (community), directly related to unemployment rate, requires certain stability (does not tolerate illegal employment), which makes it different from the quality of survival, where the need for stability does not exist.

The notion of life quality comprises:

There is a definite need for complementarity of life quality determinants within the convergence leading to stabilization i.e. something that continues.

Within the qualitative aspect, besides the quality of life, we also consider the way of living related to lifestyles. The variety of lifestyles may be explained by changes in values that have taken place due to such causes as [13]:

There are certain values such as: job satisfaction value, security and stability value, existence value, consumption value etc., which form assets for people.

Analyzing life quality, we may point out two interpretations [13]:

Descriptive interpretation refers to certain standards i.e. subjectivity models with regard to global or local character. Comparative interpretation concerns levels of life quality and bases on the objective (close to living standard) and subjective (typically qualitative) criteria.

The Finnish sociologist Allardt combined the notion of economic welfare with living standard and life quality. Within the economic welfare, he has distinguished 3 spheres: possession (to have), feeling (to love) and existence (to be). The living standard (material needs) has been determined by the human needs factor (to have), and the quality of life has been characterized by feeling and existence factors (to love and to be) [17].

Summing up, it may be said, that living standard is expressed by the quantity of goods and services needed for decent and honourable life, whereas the quality of life means feelings and emotions i.e. the degree of satisfaction with what is understood as the standard of living [17].

Of course, one should always remember that the Perceived Life Quality is distinctly subjective in character and often not related to the objective living conditions.


Common household definitions treat a household as a group of people living together and earning their living together, usually biologically related and constituting families. According to Gutkowska [8] a household is an economical – social system consisting of the following elements:

Referring to Egner [4] – one of the authors of the leading definitions for the household in home economics – the household should be treated as “human group’s controlled disposable income that ensures the satisfaction of common needs within one social structure”. In Egner’s formulation, “the disposable income” means that the household forms an economic structure, which is devoted to the satisfaction of common human needs.

Piorkowsky [15] presented the functions of household and family in the following way. Each of the functions has its significance:

Each of the above functions may influence life quality in a both positive and negative way. The question is how to properly weigh the intensification of household functions which would lead to the possibly highest degree of feeling satisfaction with the quality of life.

In his study of life quality in households, Rutkowski has assumed the following issue groups [16]:

  1. Family, private life;

  2. Heath (fitness);

  3. Accommodation;

  4. Household environment;

  5. Material standard;

  6. Education (studies);

  7. Leisure time, culture, recreation;

  8. Work & science;

  9. Security;

  10. Place in society (community), friends and acquaintances;

  11. Self-fulfilment degree;

  12. Mental condition;

  13. Spiritual life.

There are however distinct differences in the perception of life quality in towns and the country. They are related to numerous conditionings connected with the place of living. Table 1 presents the differentiation of these features with regard to towns and the countryside [3].

Table 1. Town and countryside features

Town and its features

Countryside and its features

  • high intensity of traffic
  • excessive noise

  • technicized work place and household environment

  • standardisation of urban development and architecture

  • mechanical means of transport

  • little contact with nature

  • concentration of activity in buildings

  • peace
  • quiet

  • domination of natural environment

  • individualisation of life style and building

  • physical activity

  • continuous, direct contact with nature

  • domination of activity in the open air.

Source: own elaboration on the basis of [3].

The above differentiation foretells the inevitable differences in the perception of life quality by the inhabitants of both locations, resulting from the households’ environment.

Additionally, we may say, that rural areas have the potential to improve the quality of life for the whole society by providing an environment, which is healthy and secure, with a high level of social integration and safety. Many rural areas boost landscape amenities which are much sought out, and whose proper development can prove a key to local economic prosperity.

The same applies to the wide potential offered by rural areas for recreation and the pursuit of leisure activities. Furthermore, rural areas provide a context for the production of quality products, with a well-defined identity and a traditional, cultural value. Generally speaking, life quality in rural areas means among others “Physical and Psychical Wellbeing” in a harmonious environment [13].

The living standard in cities is generally distinctly higher than in rural areas, which does not influence the subjectivity of life quality perception.


The Japanese 5 S concept maintains that people should be involved in activity, so as to improve all aspects of life according to the feedback rule i.e. restlessly.

The life quality issue adjustment to the 5 S concept requires a specific approach. Many elements directly related to work influence the process of defining what life quality is. Such situation requires a bit of inductive attitude, according to which we understand many problems in a wider range e.g. instead of thinking of agriculture we may think about rural areas; here – instead of work quality only – we may think about life quality issue.

The assumptions of the 5 S concept may be transplanted to the life quality niveau. The 5 S concept is easily applicable and may be treated as a key to improve life quality in family and household. Abbreviation 5 S refers to the five Japanese words [10]:

  1. Seiri → organization;

  2. Seiton → order;

  3. Seiso → cleanness;

  4. Seiketsu → standardization;

  5. Shitsuke → discipline.

Seiri – meaning organization – refers to the place of living and main ways of living style leading to life quality improvement.

Seiton – meaning order – refers to both space and time. In case of spatial order, we mean the organization of life in a house (connection with seiri). On the other hand, we may have a dynamic order, which refers to time, and to sequence of activities forming, an order of timetable i.e. controlled and planned process.

Seiso – meaning cleanness – refers to a very narrow but important aspect of organization (seiri) and order (seiton – understood in the spatial sense).

Seiketsu – meaning standardization and consuetudo (the force of habits) – creating certain habits and the so called codes of good behaviour resulting in the improvement of the living standard up to a desired level;

Shitsuke – i.e. voluntary discipline leading to the preservation of the desired quality of life. Summing up, we may state that:

  1. Seiri → basic organization of life answers such questions as: where to live, work and spend free time; how to live?

  2. Seiton → order regarding time and space dimensions;

  3. Seiso → cleanness – narrow element distinguished separately due to its universal importance;

  4. Seiketsu → standardization and certain habits (behaviour – we are supposed to get used to);

  5. Shitsuke → voluntary discipline → maintaining proper living standard.

One may say that the Japanese 5 S concept means: the slow, continuous improvement of all aspects of life, aiming at securing its desired standard and quality [12].


Besides the 5 S concept, life quality improvement and implementation may be achieved by the so called “Quality circles” – voluntary workshop meetings (4-12 persons) destined to improve work quality, solve problems and implement new ergonomic solutions. They also try to find a contemporary approach to work, its effectiveness and creativity, which together may provide a summarized effect of satisfaction leading to the leverage of life quality. Higher quality of work by implementing quality circles improves the quality of life.

One may also go back to the old times, when in certain situation the space of living became a determinant of life quality. Indeed, living space does influence the quality of life, and even survival, which may be proven by the biblical story of Noah’s ark described in Genesis (6,15), where the dimensions of the ark had been precisely stated: “... make it 300 ells long, 50 ells wide, and 30 ells high...”. Assuming that 1 ell = ca. 52 cm, we may state that the ark constituting the living space for people and animals had the following dimensions: 156 m in length, 26 m in width and it was 15.6 m high. However, the quite impressive size of the ark did not ensure the proper quality of life or rather survival for its inhabitants in the time of the biblical deluge [12].

Not only may the space be relevant for life quality, but we may also notice a certain possibility of feedback between the living level represented by socio-economic development & human factor, and the social capital referring to life quality. The higher the development is, the bigger the chances for satisfactory life quality are. Of course, we must be all the time conscious about the subjectivity of such approach.

According to professor Górecki, the role of human factor, as well as social capital, is still gaining in significance, in step with the general socio-economic development. Even a considerable inflow of financial means combined with structural and administrative changes will not produce full possible advantages unless a radical improvement is achieved in the sphere of quality and creative participation of individuals (i.e. human factor) and social capital [6]. To achieve this, the life quality of these individuals should be high enough, to enable cooperation and combination with social capital for the sake of development in the future.

In conclusion, we may state that living standard represents the quantitative aspect of human needs and wants, and is rather objective (with regard to certain standards perceived as common for normal life), while the quality of life concentrates on feelings, emotions and the level of satisfaction from these living condition, and is distinctly subjective.


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Dariusz Koreleski
Department of Economics,
Agricultural University of Cracow, Poland
Al. Mickiewicza 21, 31-120 Cracow, Poland
email: dkoreleski@ar.krakow.pl

Responses to this article, comments are invited and should be submitted within three months of the publication of the article. If accepted for publication, they will be published in the chapter headed 'Discussions' and hyperlinked to the article.