Researchers are asking people throughout Britain how happy they are with their lot in life

Researchers are asking people throughout Britain to describe how happy they are with their lot in life to help improve the effect of the healthcare they receive.

The researchers have set up an online survey to collect information on the factors that contribute to the quality of life of people in Britain. (The survey is at: http://www.bath.ac.uk/whoqol/questionnaires).

The results will be used to create a survey that doctors can use to assess a patient’s perception of their quality of life and work out the potential impact of medical intervention on their everyday lives.

This is important because a person’s perception of their quality of life can, for example, influence how quickly they recover from an operation or make a difference to the psychological impact they experience when they become ill.

The on-line survey, which is sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Commission, asks people questions about their experiences over a two-week period, their ability to do activities and their satisfaction with various important aspects of their life.

Respondents will then be able to print out a quality of life profile that includes a graphical analysis of their physical health, psychological well-being, social relationships, environment and overall quality of life.

“Surgeons tell us that they can do exactly the same procedure on two similar people, but whilst one is back at work within a week, the other can become depressed and disabled by their situation. It is the patient’s perception of how the operation affects them that is the greatest influence on the difference,” said Professor Suzanne Skevington, who heads the WHO Field Centre for the Study of Quality of Life at the University of Bath.

“In a nutshell, quality of life is about people’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns”.

“This survey is also a useful tool for people to take stock of how they perceive their own quality of life and look for areas where they can redress any unbalance that may exist.”

The survey questionnaire – the WHOQOL - has been developed over the last decade through a collaboration of researchers and clinicians with focus groups of users throughout the world, to take into account of nuances in people’s perception of life quality evident in different cultures, religions and other belief systems.

This has helped to highlight the differences in perceptions of quality of life in different cultures and countries. For example, skin colour can affect a person’s quality of life in India, feeling secure is important to Israeli’s, while in the UK simply feeling ‘fed up’ can have a detrimental effect on life quality.

“From global studies we have already found that in Britain, a person’s perception of a high quality life is closely linked to their feelings of happiness and contentment. However, in other cultures happiness comes out as low as 17th, among the 25 aspects of quality of life that we measure. In the US for example, the availability of accessible health and social care is one of the most important influences on quality of life” said Professor Skevington.

“It is not so much a country’s standard of living that has an affect on quality of life, but more the meaning that these resources have for your life. For example, extensive living space is important in the US but is less important in Japan, an equally developed country.”

http://www.bath.ac.uk/

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