Sustainable quality of life: Conceptual analysis for policy-relevant empirical specification

14-11-2007 | Publication

‘Sustainable development’ concerns the pursuit of a sustainable quality of life for all, present and future, as has been emphasised in the Sustainability Outlooks that were published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) in 2004 and 2007. At MNP’s request, the University of Amsterdam produced a conceptual analysis of the notion of ‘sustainable quality of life’.

A sustainable quality of life in a nation state is a quality of life of the population within the nation borders that (1) can be continued given the natural and social resources available to the nation and (2) is not at the expense of an acceptable quality of life for (2a) the current generation of inhabitants in other nations, (2b) future generations in the home nation and (2c) other nations.

Approaches to quality of life

This report details how quality of life can be approached conceptually and empirically. Out of three approaches of quality of life, that is, the resources approach, the happiness approach and the capability approach, the latter is found most suitable for further elaboration. The capability approach focuses on the real possibilities for people to function in several domains of social life, in accordance with their own preferences and self-image.


The responsibility for this report’s content lies exclusively with the authors; it does not necessarily contain the views of the MNP on this subject matter. Our expectation is that this report will provide thinkers on sustainability and quality of life with a good deal of interesting information.