Happiness and Life Satisfaction

Why happiness is important

There is a growing body of evidence that happier people tend to be:

  • healthier,
  • better partners, parents and friends,
  • more likely to participate in community life,
  • more productive, and
  • likely to live longer.

As happiness plays a vital part in the social and economic wellbeing of Australians, we have included questions about this in the Living in Australia study each year.

Happy Life?

Based on article 'Better Schooling is not the road to a happy life' The Australian, 21/09/2011

"Better education does not always mean a happier life"

women sewingResearch using the HILDA study has reported younger people (born after 1955) have lower life satisfaction levels when compared to older people (born 1955 or before). The HILDA data shows that older people with a lower educational attainment were more satisfied than those in their group with a higher educational attainment. However, this is reversed for the young age group where life satisfaction increases with education.

It was found that for the older age group, those with a "graduate diploma or certificates or Year 11 or below are more satisfied with their lives on average when compared to those with a masters/doctorate, bachelor/honour degrees, or Year 12 only". However, for the younger age group, satisfaction with finances, health and safety increases with education.

The study noted that one reason for the differences in life satisfaction between the older group and the younger group may be that the latter had to sustain a "faster paced and more demanding lifestyle" and this could lead to stress and detract from satisfaction.

Does low satisfaction persist?

If you are dissatisfied with aspects of your life, does this dissatisfaction persist for several years, or are problems usually solved within a year or two?

The proportion reporting low levels of overall satisfaction with life (a score of less than 5 on the 0-10 satisfaction scale) in any one year was around 3%. Of those interviewed in all five years, 9% reported low levels of satisfaction with life at least once but only 1.4% reported low levels in at least three years out of five. So, the Living in Australia data indicates that low levels of life satisfaction very rarely last for several years.This also appears true of some specific aspects of life. Problems causing dissatisfaction with the home you live in, your neighbourhood, and how safe you feel rarely persist, with only a very small proportion of those interviewed reporting dissatisfaction with these things in at least three years. On the other hand, problems relating to dissatisfaction with your financial situation, feeling part of the local community and the amount of free time you have seem to be somewhat harder to solve.

low satisfaction

Average levels of satisfaction are steady

We measure your happiness by asking you to rate your satisfaction with various aspects of your life on a scale of 0 (completely dissatisfied) to 10 (completely satisfied).

The average scores for most aspects of life scarcely changed between 2001 and 2005. The largest change in fact was in levels of satisfaction with your financial situation, which increased from an average of 6.1 in 2001 to 6.4 in 2005. This does not mean that everyone's satisfaction has remained steady, only that the average has.

Have things changed in the last five years for 15 to 19 year olds?

Comparing the experiences of those who were aged 15 to 19 years old in 2006 with their counterparts in 2001, we can see how things have shifted over those five years for our young people. Today's youth are more likely to be employed and earning more than those five years ago, but are less likely to be studying, participating in sporting or hobby groups, or working around the house.

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