Quality of life

Quality of life

Quality of life has many aspects. It involves concrete (material) necessities of life, such as affordable housing, a safe and healthy living environment, good neighbourhood facilities, and accessible healthcare. There are also experiential aspects, such as meaningful work, social connectedness, absence of segregation and discrimination, leisure time, political voice and happiness. These factors help determine how people rate their quality of life.


Various welfare and psychosocial factors appear to be interrelated. A good education offers the prospect of meaningful work and income to meet life’s material necessities. In addition, a good education and a healthy lifestyle also go hand in hand. Cultural backgrounds may play a role in this. Other factors also play a role in how people assess their quality of life:

  • The ability to make something of life and shape things to one’s liking (autonomy) partly determines how people feel about the quality of their lives.
  • Not everyone can escape a restrictive environment. Poverty and limited self-reliance often pass from generation to generation.
  • Power differences and discrimination impact how people perceive the quality of their lives.
  • Social isolation negatively affects the quality of life and health of many elderly and disabled people. Poverty and discrimination can lead to social isolation.
  • A clean, healthy, and safe living environment (absence of crime, road safety) partly determines residential enjoyment.
  • The presence of social institutions, such as employment services, district and community care and debt relief, have a positive impact on quality of life. So does the presence of cultural institutions and facilities that provide opportunities for attractive, meaningful activities.

Changing perspectives

The growing gap between disadvantaged and wealthy social groups has put livelihood security as a ‘discourse’ on the political agenda. Also, the perspective on health is shifting towards prevention and positive health. This shift has everything to do with rising healthcare costs that threaten to become unmanageable. These changing perspectives offer new starting points for policies to improve people’s quality of life.

Livelihood security
A growing gap in large cities has emerged between affluent and (disadvantaged) poor populations. The higher educated, in particular, benefit from economic growth. People with no diploma or a Western background have a much lower chance of finding a job. Long-term unemployment leads to poverty, social segregation, declining liveability and deteriorating health. Investing in education and suitable housing can make people economically independent and resilient.

Healthy cities
The Healthy City discourse focuses on health promotion and prevention. Lifestyle (nutrition, relaxation, exercise, social contacts) is essential for health. Neighbourhoods should provide sufficient space for people to meet and deploy healthy behaviour. When designing residential areas, more space must be for cycling and walking, while residential areas become car-free. Heat stress diminishes with greenery and water features.

Urban renewal
Urban renewal aims to revitalise outdated station areas, business parks and residential areas. The primary goal is to create new, liveable residential areas. A good example is the National Programme Rotterdam South. This programme has three tracks: school, work and living. Children of compulsory school age receive active guidance on their way to work. Improving their position in the labour market should lead to less poverty. In addition, there is a need for investments that improve housing, public spaces, and facilities.