Standard of Living vs. Quality of Life

My mother’s friend lives in a little Floridian paradise.  To keep up her primary home, she requires gardeners, housekeepers, horse trainers, a personal Tai Chi instructor, and a handyman.  Most of these people come to her home several times a week; some practically live there.  And guess what?  My mother’s best friend longs for privacy, and misses having a quiet life.

Having a lot of money can mean needing a ton of maintainence.  There’s always a trade-off.  Yin and Yang. There’s no “perfect” situation, no matter how hard we may envy our way into thinking that there is.  Apparently, my mother’s friend values her gardens, her horses, and her large, well-cleaned house, more than she values privacy, or she would have fired all the servants.

What would you do?

We hear a lot of talk about “quality of life.”  What is it?  Is it any different from having a high standard of living?

They’re actually very different concepts.

Experts tell us that “Standard of Living” is measured objectively, while “Quality of Life” is measured more subjectively.

  •  A country’s standard of living is measured by things like GNP, hours of work required to provide basic necessities, access to and quality of health care and education, political stability,  etc.
  • A country’s quality of life is measured by things like freedom from slavery, freedom from torture, freedom of movement, presumption of innocence unless proven guilty, the right to marry and have a family, the right to privacy, and freedom of religion.

If you’re rolling in money, do you automatically have a high quality of life? Not necessarily; think about it.  All kinds of things can affect your quality of life that have nothing to do with whether you have plenty of money:  natural disasters, disease corrupt governments, civil war, oppressive police, neighborhood gangs, the mafia, or an abusive spouse.  And that’s just thinking about the huge things.

What about the little things?

What about privacy, time with family, psychological health, and freedom from addiction?  What about the excesses we see in countries with a high standards of living– the overfeeding, overtechnology-stuffing, the detachment from nature?

Ask yourself which family’s lifestyle seems better:  the family with 5 cell phones, who rarely speak face to face but who “talk” to people they don’t really care about, via texts, all day long?  Or the family that can not afford cell phones, but who talk with each other, laugh face to face, and look into each other’s faces –rather than into hand held screens– most of the day?

In last year’s Gallup poll that studied people in 124 countries to classify well-being, respondents were ranked in three levels: “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering.”   Respondents rated their current and future lives.  People were considered to be thriving if they rated their current lives a 7 or higher and their lives five years in the future 8 or higher, on a scale of 10.

The top countries for reporting “thriving” well-being also had moderately high standards of living.  Denmark (72% thriving) and Sweden (69 % thriving) led the list.  The U.S.  reported that only  59% of Americans were thriving. But Chad (1%) and the Central African Republic (2%) were the least thriving countries in the poll.

So what were a few of the differences between Denmark, which tops the thriving countries’ list; and Chad, which ends up at the very bottom?

In Denmark, the average person earns the equivalent of $37,530 per year.  An average person can expect to live to be between 77 and 81 years old.  And a child has only a 4 in  1,000 chance of dying before age five.  Fewer than 5,000 people have AIDS.  The country is sandwiched between peaceful countries, most of which are in the top ten “thriving” well-being countries (according to Gallup).

Meanwhile, in Chad, the average person earns the equivalent of $1,070 per year.  The average person lives to be 47 years old.  The probability of dying under age five is 209 out of 1,000.  More than 200,000 adults have AIDS.  And the country is surrounded by countries that seem ever to be at war.  Thank heaven you’re not in Chad.

Now, doesn’t this make you want to find out more about what makes Denmark tick?



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