Quality of life theory actually has a complex history that can date all the way back to even Aristotle. While Abraham Maslow did not actually coin quality of life theory, he did develop self-actualization theory based on research he started in the 1930s. Other scholars developed quality of life theory both independently of Maslow and based off of Maslow's self-actualization theory, also called hierarchy of needs theory. A detailed history of scholars trying to define and investigate quality of life in the 1930s and 70s can be found in Bryan H. Massam's essay titled "Quality of Life: Public Planning and Private Living," published in volume 58 of the journal Progress in Planning, in 2002. Massam notes that starting in the 1930s, many researchers from a diverse number of fields have tried to define, investigate, and quantify the quality of life theory without achieving a whole lot of uniformity. In particular, he mentions that sociologist William Ogburn published in 1933 the most influential ideas about quality of life theory in a report consisting of two volumes titled Recent Social Trends for the Hoover Administration.
Maslow's self-actualization theory was first presented in an article he wrote titled "A Theory of Human Motivation," published in Psychological Review, volume 5, in 1943. His theory states that human behavior is governed by the motivation of fulfilling a "hierarchy of needs" (Muskingum University, "Abraham Maslow (1908 - 1970)"). There are multiple levels of needs, and after each need is met, a person will then move on to the next level of needs. The first level of needs include the basic needs of survival, such as "food, water, elimination, sex, and sleep" ("Abraham Maslow"). The second level includes safety needs, which are needs desired to fulfill a human's psychological need for feeling safe, such as social "structure, order, security, and predictability" ("Abraham Maslow"). A third level includes the need for humans to have a high level of self-esteem in order to have a sense of belonging and safety in the world.