An article titled “A systematic review of quality of life research in medicine and health sciences,” published in 2019 in the ISOQOL-affiliated journal Quality of Life Research, was one of the journal’s most cited and most downloaded papers in 2021. The study addresses the concept of quality of life (QOL) and reviews the literature on QOL in medicine and health research.

QOL has become an increasingly important concept in the fields of health and medicine, both for research and in practice. Quality of life is defined by the World Health Organization as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.”

A further aspect of QOL is health related quality of life (HRQL), which focuses on people’s level of ability, daily functioning, and ability to experience a fulfilling life. Research literature often uses QOL and HRQL interchangeably, though this can cause problems due to their different meanings and uses.  

QOL is a complex concept, and there is often debate about what QOL means and what should be measured. To help identify these discrepancies, the authors of the study performed a systematic review of QOL research in the domains of medicine and health, while also identifying the country of origin, target groups, instruments, design, and conceptual issues in the current research.

From this review, the authors found that QOL research is truly international, with studies having been done all over the world. It also involves a variety of target audiences and uses different research designs and many types of QOL measures. The authors also found that only 13% of the studies in their review provided a definition of QOL, and 6% distinguished QOL from HRQL.

There were some similarities in the studies, and the criteria that were most commonly met included:

  • Specifying the areas of QOL that were to be measured.
  • Providing a reason for choosing the instruments used.
  • Grouping the results from various items.

These findings indicate that many QOL studies in the field have conceptual and methodological limitations. Recognizing these limitations and paying closer attention to these issues when planning QOL studies is of the utmost importance.

To read the full journal article, click here.

This newsletter editorial represents the views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ISOQOL. 

How to Submit a Newsletter Editorial
Do you have something to share about health related quality of life and patient-centered outcomes? We want to hear from you!
Learn More

The International Society for Quality of Life Research (ISOQOL) is a global community of researchers, clinicians, health care professionals, industry professionals, consultants, and patient research partners advancing health related quality of life research (HRQL).

Together, we are creating a future in which patient perspective is integral to health research, care and policy.