A brief history of the Quality of Life: its use in medicine and in philosophy

This article traces the development of Quality of Life in medicine and philosophy in order to understand its current status and future potential.

Since the early 1970s, interest in the quality of life (QoL) concept has increased significantly in clinical practice and research. QoL has been of paramount importance for evaluating the quality and the outcomes of health care. Despite its importance, there is still no consensus on the definition or proper measurement of QoL. The purpose of this article is to analyze how QoL is being used in medicine and in philosophy to understand its current status.

The term QoL began to be used in the early 1960s following changes in the health and the demographic profiles of “late modern” societies. Traditionally, public health has been concerned, not to say preoccupied, with mortality. Public health frameworks in the first half of XX century were developed and articulated to help cope with the complex patterns of “premature” mortality, and, to a lesser extent, the incidence and prevalence of morbidity. In other words, medicine focused its attention on quantity of life.