Quality of life is the issue of greatest day-to-day concern for most people. While quality of life (QOL) includes more than just health, health plays a major role in our ability to enjoy life. A major determinate of health-related QOL is the ability to participate in essential and meaningful life activities. Therefore QOL means different things to different people.
To be able to help individuals achieve their QOL goals, health care professionals must know a great deal about them. Key questions include, “Could you tell me about a typical day in your life? What do you need or want to be able to do that you can’t do now?” And “What are the activities in your life that you wouldn’t want to ever have to give up?
Strategies that improve quality of life can sometimes reduce life expectancy. For example, medications that affect your alertness or reaction speed (e.g., antihistamines, pain medications, muscle relaxants, etc.) can increase your risk of a car accident, fall, or other serious injury. Antibiotics used to reduce the duration of a self-limited infection like bronchitis or sinusitis can encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs, which could cause more serious infections in the future. A goal-directed approach doesn’t necessarily resolve these conflicts, but it can help clarify the trade-offs you are making.
Strategies to improve current quality of life may also increase your risk for future disability. For example, if you have joint or back pain, it might not be a good idea to “kill” all of the pain, because you will be tempted to do things that could cause further injury or delay healing. That could result in worse pain and more medical and surgical interventions down the road.