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The aim of the analyses presented here was to explore subjective and objective components and predictors of self-rated quality of life (QoL). The vehicle for the study was a questionnaire module on perceptions of quality of life, which was commissioned by the authors for inclusion in the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Omnibus Survey in Great Britain. For the survey, 2033 randomly sampled adults aged 16 and over were interviewed in their own homes (77% response rate). Multiple regression analyses showed that relatively little of the variance in overall QoL ratings was explained by the objective, socio-demographic indicators (5%), and the addition of the health status indicator (reported longstanding illness) contributed nothing. The subjective ratings of life in self-nominated areas of importance explained the most, with those who did not prioritise the area at all as the referent (relationships, finances, own health, others' health, work and social life). These variables contributed over twice as much as the objective and health status variables, indicating the relative importance of self-nominated ‘important areas of life’ over theoretically important, objective variables and reported illness. However, the final model still only explained a modest amount of the variance in quality of life ratings (16%), confirming the amorphous nature of quality of life.