Panel data and open-ended questions: understanding perceptions of quality of life

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2009


This paper describes the burgeoning interest in quality of life studies and suggests that as well as expert definitions, we need to consider people's own perceptions of what matters. Using open-ended questions from the 1997 and 2002 waves of the British Household Panel Survey we analyse both quantitatively and qualitatively how perceptions of quality of life differ for men and women across the life course. Qualitative analysis reveals that key domains such as health, family and finances often refer, not to self, but to others. Longitudinal analysis demonstrates that people's perceptions of quality of life change over time, particularly before and after important life transitions. Thus our findings challenge overly individualistic and static conceptions of quality of life and reveal quality of life as a process, not a fixed state.

Published in

21st Century Society: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences


Volume: 4 (2):123-135




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