By UMAR RAZA (University of Sargodha, GRW Campus)

 Standard of living and quality of life are often referred as the economic and social well-being of countries and their residents, but what is the difference between the two? The definitions of these terms can be difficult to tease apart and may overlap in some areas, depending on whom you ask. It's more than just a matter of semantics; in fact, knowing the difference can affect how you evaluate a country.      

The Standard of living enables the citizens of a country - as well as future generations - to become better off both financially and economically. Quality of life, on the other hand, allows them to become more content with their way of life and the environment in which they live.

Accordingly, standard of living involves factors like income, housing, employment opportunities, high GDP, low inflation rate, etc. The factors that constitute quality of life are  freedom of speech, the right to choose a religion, sense of dignity and privacy, peace of mind, etc.

Standard of living and quality of life are two similar concepts that seem as if they may be used interchangeably. The fact is that the two are different and are defined by factors that are distinct. While standard of living is more concerned with a predetermined, artificial status that has become accepted as a measure of good living, quality of life is focused on more intangible objects that do not necessarily depend on wealth.

Can quality of life be measured? Many factors enter into the equation and these are not limited to purely material or monetary aspects.

It is used to measure things that are easy to quantify, like inflation. It can compare living in Milwaukee to living in New York, or what it was like to live in Colorado in 1915 versus today.

Quality of life is more subjective. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights considers freedom from slavery and torture, equal protection under law, the right to privacy and to marry, the right to have a family and vote, and other factors when evaluating quality of life.

Your standard of living is defined by the way you can afford to live, which makes it dependent on your salary, bills and savings. It determines the neighborhood you live in, the type of material goods you can buy, the type of vacations you can take, and so on. Standard of living does have some optionality to it, because although you may be able to afford very expensive items, high-priced neighborhoods, etc. you don’t actually have to choose to spend your money in that way. Instead, you can choose to live below your means. However, you can also choose to live above your means—which means you create a standard of living that your income can’t actually support. While you can live below your means forever, living above your means is not sustainable and will eventually catch up with you. It could also create so much debt that it severely impacts the real standard of living you can afford now and later. Quality of LifeYour quality of life has little to do with income. Instead, it focuses on your ability to spend your time doing those things that mean the most to you. While someone with a low income may have to spend more hours working and have fewer personal hours, their quality of life can still be determined by how they decide to spend those few hours of personal time.

Published in Young Nation magazine on July 2, 2016