Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Quality of Life Research: Material Living Conditions in the Visegrad Group Countries

Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Quality of Life Research: Material Living Conditions in the Visegrad Group Countries

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

There is a large amount of literature on quality of life (hereinafter QOL) measuring relationship between overall life satisfaction and the objective life conditions. There is no unified definition of QOL, neither a unified methodology for its assessment. According to Stiglitz et al. (2009), QOL represents a broader concept than economic production and living conditions. Many different factors have influence on the evaluation of life above its material aspect (Soltés & Gavurová, 2015). Multidimensional character of QOL is implied by various research studies which explored QOL from different aspects (e.g. Eurostat, 2015a; Khaef & Zebardast, 2015; Eby et al., 2012). However, there is no standard method for selection of indicators (Diener, 1995). Eurostat (2015a) recommends multidimensional measurement of QOL which focuses on the different aspects of QOL complementing the traditionally used indicators of economic and social development, e.g. GDP. Therefore, assessment framework for the QOL dimension of material living conditions is considered further in the paper in more detail.

The V4 countries belong to the former Socialist Bloc countries and have undergone the process of transformation from centrally planned to modern free market democracy, recording changes in value system of their citizens (Barták & Gavurová, 2014). According to their GDP per capita, they are on similar level of economic development, but in comparison with the average values of GDP per capita in the EU-27 (25.800 in PPS units), values in the V4 countries are considerably lower (from 17.200 to 20.600 in PPS units). Assessment of material living conditions in countries can provide more detailed picture of progress in the transformation process and social development than a development analysis of traditional indicators of economic growth itself. Indicators of material living conditions offer useful information about important issues of QOL, e.g. distribution of income in households, income inequality, risk of poverty, subjective perception of poverty and social exclusion in households, material deprivation or problems with housing.

The main goal of this paper is to assess material living conditions in the V4 countries in comparison to the EU-27 by the means of a development analysis of the most important indicators recommended by Eurostat and by the means of the calculated integrated indices. The paper consists of four parts. The first one contains brief overview of QOL research with emphasis on material living conditions. In the second part, there is a description of data used and methodology. The next part is dedicated to a development analysis of material and living conditions and the calculated indices during the period of 2005-2013. Finally, we conclude and evaluate research findings.

1. Literature Review

1.1. Defining the Quality of Life

According to Havasi (2013), well-being and its synonym - QOL do not equal welfare. QOL represents the concept with broader meaning and consists of many different aspect of human being which indicates its multidimensional character. For QOL, there is no universally accepted definition (e.g. Ira & Andrásko, 2007; Das, 2008; Royuela et al., 2009). In general, there is distinction between two different sides of QOL: objective and subjective. The objective (descriptive) QOL consists of life conditions of people, whereas the subjective (evaluative) QOL is based on the judgement and evaluation of life conditions and feelings towards them (Havasi, 2013; Dzuka, 2004; Stiglitz et al., 2009). According to Fayers and Machin (2000), QOL represents differences between the hopes and expectations of the individual and of the present experience of the individual. Veenhoven (2000) distinguishes between four qualities of life, namely: liveability of the environment, life-ability of the person, utility of life for the environment and appreciation of life by the person. …

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