Australians are among the most satisfied people in the world with almost 90 per cent very satisfied or satisfied with their lives, despite having to work harder to juggle family, job and financial pressures, according to the latest AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report.
Australia ranks equal third with the United States and Sweden in overall life satisfaction among OECD countries, with an average score of 7.9 out of 10, beaten only by Ireland, Norway and Denmark (equal first) and Finland and Canada (equal second).
The AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report: The pursuit of happiness explores life satisfaction trends in Australia, examining how different aspects of people’s lives impact on happiness.
AMP Financial Services Managing Director Craig Meller said a strong local economy and the natural optimism of Australians has gone a long way to boosting satisfaction levels.
“As a nation we managed our way out of a recession well before our global peers, not only because of good economic management but also because of our optimistic outlook on life that has seen us through the tough times,” Mr Meller said.
Key report findings:
Having children may increase happiness and people from bigger families tend to be happier than those with fewer children.
Satisfaction increases as the family unit grows – 40 per cent of people aged 30 and above with four or more children are very satisfied with their life overall compared to 28 per cent of people with one child and 27 per cent with no children.
The high incidence of divorce is taking its toll on some family relationships.
Around 30 per cent of parents report being dissatisfied or not so satisfied with their step children, compared to around 10 per cent of parents with their own children.
Australian workers are happy with their security, flexibility and the nature of their jobs but less satisfied with their working hours and pay.
The share of people working longer hours has steadily increased over time, with around 17 per cent working more than 50 hours a week, while at the other end of the spectrum more and more people (30 per cent) are working part time.
Full time workers are less likely to be very satisfied (27 per cent) compared to those who are not in the labour force (40 per cent) or are employed part time (35 per cent), reflecting the negative effect of longer working hours on life satisfaction.
Unemployed Australians are the least likely to report being satisfied (42 per cent) and the most likely to report being not so satisfied (23 per cent) or dissatisfied (3 per cent) with life.
Australian men and women feel differently about some elements of their lives but overall, share similar satisfaction with their lifestyle, financial situation and even salaries, despite the gender wage gap.
Men are more satisfied than women when it comes to their relationships with their partners, share of housework and levels of free time. But women are slightly happier than men with their relationships with their own children (Table 1).
Spending money wisely can boost happiness and particular types of wealth, such as the family home, superannuation and savings in the bank are linked to greater happiness than others. Non homeowners, for example, report lower satisfaction (7.7 out of 10) than those who own a home valued above $500,000 (above 8 out of 10).
Some debts like those associated with credit cards and overdue bills can lead to lower levels of happiness but larger debts above $100,000 like mortgages linked to more valuable assets can positively influence happiness.
“Many Australians are realising their dream of owning their own home and enjoying the perks of a relatively affluent lifestyle leading to higher satisfaction levels. However more and more people are working longer hours to support their standard of living,” Mr Meller said.
“The report shows being financially better off can lead to greater happiness but wealth alone does not determine happiness. Managing finances wisely – by paying off smaller debts, investing in a home and putting money in the bank or saving through superannuation – can help improve satisfaction at any stage,” Mr Meller added.
Australians’ satisfaction with life is high when they are in their earlier twenties and have fewer responsibilities (above 8 per cent), decreasing in their late thirties and forties (to around 7.6 per cent) as the pressure of balancing family life with work responsibilities grows and increasing slowly again to reach similar levels of their youth as they move into retirement.
Other factors like relationships with friends and family, health and work are important to overall happiness.
Overall Australians are most satisfied with their safety (44 per cent), home (42 per cent) and neighbourhood (36 per cent), followed by their job (30 per cent) and health (26 per cent), but least satisfied with their financial situation (42 per cent), levels of free time (41 per cent) and community involvement (40 per cent).
NATSEM author Senior Research Fellow Rebecca Cassells said the report shows the majority of Australians are leading a satisfied life, and internationally Australia is one of the happiest countries in the world.
“While there is still work to be done to improve satisfaction in some areas of society, in general, Australians can be proud they are succeeding in an overall measure of national wellbeing,” Ms Cassells said.
“One of the really positive things from the findings is that generally those who are currently very happy with their life are most likely to stay that way and those who are not are likely to experience an improvement over the next two to three years,” Ms Cassells added.
The pursuit of happiness is the 26th AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report. Since 2001, AMP and NATSEM have produced a series of reports that open windows on Australian society, the way we live and work – and our financial and personal aspirations.