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SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 765
[Quality of Life - A Multidimensional Approach] The term “quality of life research” refers to a general theoretical framework rather than to a specific theory of welfare or well-being. Most of the various definitions and conceptions of quality of life within this framework cite the multidimensional character of living conditions. In this respect, they differ from views of economic welfare that are primarily income or GDP driven. Another broadly used definition of quality of life utilizes the impact of subjective indicators to focus on the quality aspect of living conditions. The quality of life framework has laid the foundations for a large body of research on cognitive and affective dimensions of happiness and satisfaction- both satisfaction with life overall, and satisfaction with specific life domains. As such, quality of life is closely related to other (psychological) dimensions of subjective well-being such as worries, risks, attitudes, and their connections to different personality states and traits. The quality of life research is based on interdisciplinary approaches and has normative applications to the maintenance and improvement of living conditions. Quality of life approaches are therefore related on the individual level to research on inequality, poverty, and multiple deprivation; on a social level to research on advantaged and disadvantaged social groups or regions, the functioning of social and political institutions, and the preservation of living conditions; and on a national and global level to national and cross-national social and political indicators that are used widely to promote and establish fairer and better living conditions around the globe. This article takes a micro-level, individual-based perspective on inequality and quality of life to explore how inequality within and between different life dimensions impacts the overall quality of life. Section 2 describes the conceptual background and outlines the perspective of inequality assessment using economic welfare and subjective well-being as key dimensions within a multidimensional quality of life approach. Sections 3 to 5 summarize some of the empirical results on the distribution of and relationship between economic and subjective well-being. Section 3 illustrates the overall distribution and the age profiles for the economic and subjective well-being indicators. In Section 4, the case of German reunification is used to investigate how reference levels for subjective well-being converged over time with the distribution of new economic and political standards. Section 5 points out further principles for the evaluation of living conditions, giving special attention to the distribution and inequality of economic welfare levels. Section 6 provides a short summary of the main findings and a brief discussion of the main conclusions.
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