Australians who live in towns of less than 1,000 residents or rural locations have significantly higher levels of life satisfaction than those living in major cities, according to Australia’s most comprehensive household survey.
The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey undertaken by the University of Melbourne found that the kind of community a person lives in, impacts their happiness significantly. Having neighbours who help out and homes and gardens in good condition adds to a person’s life satisfaction.
According to report author, Associate Professor Roger Wilkins, from the University’s Melbourne Institute, the category of people in Australia that rated the highest life satisfaction were women who lived in Queensland.
“The report examines what makes Australians happy and healthy. It is vital tool for researchers and policymakers who examine and construct the social and economic direction for Australia,” said Associate Professor Wilkins.
What makes Australians happy and healthy
- Major cities offer least life satisfaction.
- Living with a partner increases men’s health, but not women’s.
- Towns smaller than 1,000 people and non-urban areas increase life satisfaction the most, closely followed by urban areas outside major cities.
- Neighbours helping out and doing things together have large positive effects on life satisfaction.
- Those who lived in wealthier areas report higher levels of life satisfaction.
Employment and earnings
- Having a child significantly reduces likelihood of women re-entering the workforce but has no impact on men’s employment.
- Changing employer is the best way to improve earnings growth.
- The gender pay gap is increasing for part time workers.
- Australians over 50 are the least likely to re-enter the workforce.
- Time spent on welfare benefits is longer for those who commence on unemployment benefits than for those who commence on parenting payments.
- Men and women in de facto relationships are, on average, more satisfied with their partners.
- The longer the duration of the relationship, the lower the satisfaction (except after 20 or more years of marriage).
- Kids make us less happy in relationships.
- On average, men are more satisfied with their partners than women.
- Children who moved out of the parental home at 21-24 years had an optimal outcome in terms of income and wealth in later adulthood. The situation is significantly worse for those who move out before the age of 18 and to a lesser extent 18-20 or over 25.
- Having an employed mother while a daughter is 14 years of age means she is more likely to have a higher income later in life, however, for a son this doesn’t make any difference.
Sexual identity and wellbeing
- People who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) on average have poorer health and are less happy than people who identify as heterosexual.
- Gay and bisexual men feel less safe than heterosexual men.
- Smoking rates are much higher in LGB people – 33.8% of males and 26.8% of females – compared to 19.8% and 14.1% for heterosexual males and females respectively.
The HILDA Survey has been running since 2001, and approximately 17,000 Australians are interviewed yearly on issues from housework and income to health and happiness.
“The HILDA Survey helps to shine a light on changing trends in the Australian community and economy,” said Associate Professor Wilkins.
The HILDA Survey was initiated, and is funded, by the Australian Government through the Department of Social Services.
(Source: The University of Melbourne)