International Quality of Life Month 2024

The start of a new year brings opportunities for reflection and goal-setting. In January 2024, we have a special focus - it's International Quality of Life Month. During this time, people around the world will think about what really matters most in their lives.

What does "quality of life" mean, and how can each person experience more happiness and fulfillment? We'll look at what contributes to well-being in different cultures and countries.

And we'll explore practical ways to improve life quality for communities worldwide so that everyone has a fair chance at health, relationships, prosperity, and joy. It's a chance for people globally to connect over our shared hopes for a society where people can live well and freely.

What is Quality of Life?

Quality of life refers to a person's general well-being across key areas including physical and mental health, relationships, career fulfillment, financial security, sense of meaning and purpose, and ability to pursue hobbies and passions[1][2]. It goes beyond material possessions to capture how satisfied and happy we feel, our ability to help others, and whether we have the freedom to make choices that align with our values.

While definitions vary between cultures, surveys consistently show that the top components of quality of life focus on[1][2]:

  • Health: Feeling physically vibrant, mentally sound, and having access to healthcare.
  • Wellness: Experiencing positive emotions like happiness, laughter, awe, and contentment on a regular basis.
  • Security: Feeling safe and having the financial means to live comfortably.
  • Relationships: Having meaningful connections with others and strong community ties.
  • Purpose: Finding meaning in what you do and working towards goals that provide fulfillment.
  • Engagement: Having opportunities to continue growing, exploring passions, and trying new experiences that spark joy.

Why Quality of Life Matters

Focusing on quality of life is crucial for health and happiness at both individual and societal levels. For individuals, higher reported quality of life has been linked to[1][2][3][4]:

  • Decreased risk of disease and illness
  • Better ability to cope with stress
  • Increased resilience
  • Lower rates of depression and anxiety
  • Improved work performance
  • Stronger personal relationships
  • Longer life expectancy

Likewise, societies that enable a higher quality of life for citizens through supportive systems, equality of opportunity, and access to resources see benefits like:

  • Higher productivity levels
  • Lower healthcare costs
  • More innovation and economic competitiveness
  • More sustainable environments
  • Greater social progress
  • Increased civic participation

In many ways, quality of life is the ultimate “preventive medicine” - enabling people to maximize wellness and minimize conditions that burden healthcare systems down the road.

How Has Global Quality of Life Changed?

Over the past century, average global quality of life has improved significantly thanks to advancements like sanitation systems, medical discoveries, technology innovations, rising prosperity, and greater access to education. Key signs of progress include[5][6]:

  • Increased life expectancy: The global average has risen from 46 years in 1950 to over 70 today.
  • Poverty reduction: Extreme global poverty has dropped below 10% for the first time ever.
  • Better health: Diseases like smallpox have been eradicated, child mortality rates have fallen, and treatments for conditions like HIV have been developed.
  • Expanded access: More people around the world have access things like electricity, internet, clean water and food than ever before.
  • Financial security: Global middle classes have tripled in size since the 1990's, enabling greater stability.
  • Democratic reforms: Participatory societies now represent more than half the world’s nations.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened many recent quality of life gains through health crises, supply chain disruptions, rising inflation, widening inequality between rich and poor nations in recovery pace, democratic declines in some regions, and more.

As the world looks to build back post-pandemic, International Quality of Life Month 2024 arrives at a pivotal time to re-examine how we can accelerate opportunities enabling people globally to heal, reconnect, grow, and chase their dreams.

International Quality of Life Month encourages individuals to make positive changes such as adopting a healthier lifestyle, reducing stress, and giving back to others.

Quality of Life Inequalities Still Persist

Despite aggregate quality gains worldwide, significant inequalities still persist across groups[7][8]:

  • Geographic Disparities: 79% of people reporting thriving and rising wellbeing reside in high-income Western nations, while many developing regions still lack basic necessities.
  • Wealth Gaps: Within nations, lower-income populations often have 15-20 fewer years of healthy life expectancy.
  • Gender Inequality: Biases still suppress key quality dimensions like income potential, safety, and autonomy for women worldwide.
  • Racial Injustice: Marginalized ethnic groups suffer greater exposure to pollution,
  • violence, poverty, incarceration rates, and other barriers to wellbeing.
  • Disabled Communities: Those living with disabilities have much lower employment rates, earnings, mobility access and health outcomes.

This means a sizeable segment of the global population is still unable to access many of the quality foundations experienced in privileged pockets of society.

How Can We Improve Wellbeing For All in 2024?

Transforming quality inequalities into quality opportunities that empower everyone to thrive is no small order. But each small action we take in our daily lives and broader systems contributes to expansive change over time. 

Here are 5 key opportunities we can each embrace in 2024 to advance wellbeing for people near and far[9][10]:

1. Foster Inclusive Communities

Belonging to affirming social circles and neighborhoods lifts entire groups through trust, support, identity, and more. We can all foster inclusive communities through actions like:

Hosting gatherings in our homes that unite diverse peoples
Patronizing minority-owned businesses
Calling out racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks that further marginalize groups
Advocating for affordable housing developments in our regions

2. Give Our Time

Contributing our skills and life experiences to help others provides meaning and uplifts recipients. We can volunteer time through:

  • Tutoring youth who have fallen behind in school.
  • Delivering meals to underserved neighborhoods through apps.
  • Leveraging our expertise via mentor programs that assist immigrants, those rebuilding careers after prison, single parent heads of household, and other groups access opportunities.
  • Checking on elderly neighbors struggling with isolation or everyday tasks.

3. Contact Political Representatives

Advocating for legislation and budgets that promote equality enables lasting, policy-driven change. We can make our voices heard by:

  • Writing elected officials on issues affecting our communities
  • Voting regularly to ensure our values have representation
  • Supporting local activist groups engaged in canvassing, gathering public testimonials, drafting reform proposals, and more to pressure leaders

4. Consciously Consume

The brands and products we purchase signal market demand for sustainable, ethical practices that value all people. We can leverage our dollars through:

  • Buying from B-Corps & non-profits committed to social good
  • Minimizing waste through reusable options and improved recycling
  • Researching supply chains and boycotting companies with poor labor or environmental records
  • Downloading buycott apps that scan products to reveal corporate connections to boycott campaigns

5. Model Healthy Behaviors

Our individual lifestyle choices and how we treat our bodies promote or inhibit wellbeing. We can inspire those around us through:

  • Eating nutritious foods and exercising even when difficult to model resilience
  • Recharging through vacations, staycations and small breaks that counter burnout
  • Growing through therapy, meditation, gratitude journaling or whichever tools give us joy.
  • Verbally affirming our self-worth and talents to combat limiting internal narratives

The more we support ourselves, the more we can uplift others.

Final Thoughts:

January 2024's International Quality of Life Month arrives at a pivotal point to recharge our batteries, serve our communities, demand progress from leaders, vote accordingly, and take daily actions that incrementally actualize positive change.

Together through greater compassion, courage and conviction to enact change - we can build a world where everyone feels seen, safe, valued and empowered to shape lives they themselves celebrate. 

The work won't be complete in one month. But this January offers the opportunity to start envisioning and enabling more inclusive communities, participatory democracy, sustainable economies, and breakthrough innovations that reduce inequality gaps for generations to come.

May we have the wisdom to never settle for the status quo, the audacity to speak even when it feels inconvenient, and the willpower to improve small, daily choices such that broad well-being multiplies through the enduring ripple effects of how we lead our one precious life.

References: 

[1] “Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, 2024, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/international-quality-life-month-calls-reflection.

[2] Teoli, Dac, and Abhishek Bhardwaj. “Quality of Life.” Nih.gov, StatPearls Publishing, 27 Mar. 2023, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536962/.

[3] Kim, Sunae et al. “Factors Influencing the Health-Related Quality of Life of Workers According to the Type of Work.” Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 10,10 2066. 18 Oct. 2022, doi:10.3390/healthcare10102066

[4] Mujib Ur Rahman, et al. “Factor Enhancing Quality of Life.” ResearchGate, Humanity Only - HO, 30 Mar. 2020, www.researchgate.net/publication/350182348_Factor_Enhancing_Quality_of_Life.

[5] Ayala, Alba et al. “Influence of Active and Healthy Ageing on Quality of Life Changes: Insights from the Comparison of Three European Countries.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 18,8 4152. 14 Apr. 2021, doi:10.3390/ijerph18084152

[6] Haynie, Devon. “Report: American Quality of Life Declines over Past Decade.” US News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 2020, www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2020-09-11/a-global-anomaly-the-us-declines-in-annual-quality-of-life-report.

[7] Higgs, Paul, et al. "Dimensions of the inequalities in quality of life." Understanding quality of life in old age (2005): 27.

[8] JieAnNaMu, et al. “Inequalities in Health-Related Quality of Life and the Contribution from Socioeconomic Status: Evidence from Tibet, China.” BMC Public Health, vol. 20, no. 1, BioMed Central, May 2020, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-08790-7.

[9] Kottke, Thomas E., Matt Stiefel, and Nicolaas P. Pronk. "“Well-being in all policies”: promoting cross-sectoral collaboration to improve people’s lives." Preventing chronic disease 13 (2016).

[10] Lyubomirsky, Sonja, and Kristin Layous. "How do simple positive activities increase well-being?." Current directions in psychological science 22.1 (2013): 57-62.