Geesteswetenschappelijk onderdeel (Engelstalig)

Towards a narrative understanding of quality of life

Falling ill often has a large impact on people’s quality of life. For many people, falling ill is a ‘contingent life event’: something unexpected that ruptures our life course and causes conflict with our expectations and life goals.

In the medical sciences, quality-of-life-research usually focuses on ‘health-related quality of life’: the way a disease influences physical, psychological and social functioning.

Previous theoretical and empirical research suggests that the way people make meaning of their disease influences their experienced quality of life. However, little research has been done on the way people make meaning of illness and other contingent life events in the context of their personal life narrative and worldview, and how this relates to quality of life. To understand this type of meaning making and its relationship with quality of life, we need a humanities-approach.

In this part of our interdisciplinary project (the Impact study), we develop a narrative perspective on quality of life, connecting contingency theory and theories on narrative identity with theories on quality of life in medical psychology.

Taking contingency theory and motivation theory as a starting point, we focus on the role of worldview, ultimate life goals, the experience of contingency and ‘relating to contingency’ in people’s interpretation of contingent life events.

One of our hypotheses is that confronted with a contingent life event, people ‘relate to contingency’ in different ways, some being more able than others to integrate negative contingent life events in their life story. In this project we aim to elucidate how this aspect of a person’s identity is related to the self-evaluation of quality of life.

This part of the Impact study consists of three sub projects

  1. a theoretical project: literature study on quality of life, life goals and narrative identity;
  2. an empirical qualitative project: in-depth interviews with respondents having cardiac disease about the way their illness and other contingent life events impacts their life goals and influences their quality of life;
  3. an empirical quantitative project: developing a quantitative questionnaire about meaning making of contingent life events, to be tested in a large-scale study on quality of life amongst 400 patients having cardiac disease.