How quality of life informs local decision making

High angle view of the city of Cambridge, UK, photo by offcaania/AdobeStock


Quality of life measures have shaped decision making when planned and implemented early, but there is little evidence to suggest that such measures are being used by local policymakers in Cambridge, UK.

What is the issue?

In 2015 Cambridge Ahead commissioned RAND Europe to conduct a survey of its membership base to gain an understanding of what employees in Cambridge feel about their quality of life. Following this, Cambridge Ahead have established a four-stage action plan to help improve how quality of life is measured and to better understand the priorities of the Cambridge population.

In doing so, Cambridge Ahead hopes to ensure that quality of life is a key priority for local public policy in the coming years.

What was our goal?

Cambridge Ahead asked RAND Europe to support the first stage of its action plan through a review of the literature on quality of life. Drawing on examples from UK and international contexts, researchers examined how quality of life is both defined and measured in different areas, as well as how it has shaped and impacted local decision making.

What did we find?

Quality of Life is a complex concept that does not have a single definition.

How quality of life is defined depends on who it is being applied to and in which context, meaning there is no single widely used definition. However, several dimensions are commonly used when measuring it:

  • Personal well-being
  • Health
  • Education and learning
  • Social relations, support and activity
  • Nature and environment
  • Housing, shelter and accommodation
  • Civic engagement, participation and rights
  • Safety, security and crime
  • Business and economy
  • Community

There is little evidence to suggest that quality of life measures are being used by local policymakers.

While there is an array of commonly used quality of life measures available to local authorities, there is little evidence to suggest they are being used in practice. This may be due to tensions between local and national governance, with local authorities unable to set their own contextually relevant quality of life measures.

Quality of life measures have shaped decision making when planned and implemented early

When successfully implemented at an early stage, quality of life measures can have a substantial impact on policymaking through the following mechanisms:

  1. Establishing a baseline for quality of life in the locality
  2. Using this baseline to prioritise the allocation of available pots of funding to maximise quality of life
  3. Engaging communities in the creation of the measure and encouraging public use of the findings.