Index Unlocks Secrets to Happiness
25 November 2010 at 11:57 am
Millionaires are not the happiest Australians – instead, those with the highest wellbeing are living with a partner and have a combined income of around $100,000, according to the latest Australian Unity Wellbeing Index.
The What makes us happy? report brings together a decade of findings from the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index – a partnership between Australian Unity and Deakin University –and details the factors that contribute to both high and low wellbeing.
The Index measures wellbeing across eight domains: standard of living, health, achieving in life, relationships, safety, community connection, future security and spirituality or religion.
Deakin University Professor Robert Cummins, and author of the Index, says while people have a base level of happiness they’re born with, factors in everyday life can cause it to fluctuate – but generally only a little.
Professor Cummins says unemployed men who live alone have a lower wellbeing than women and are at risk of becoming socially isolated and developing depression.
According to the Wellbeing Index having more money does make people happier but only to a point. Once household income reaches about $100,000 it takes an awful lot more money to make people even slightly happier.
Professor Cummins says however, for lower income earners, happiness can be bought at a discounted price. Increased happiness derived from more income comes easier for people who are starting with less.
He says for people with an annual household income of less than $15,000, an additional $6,000 buys an extra point of wellbeing. At an annual household income of $151,000-$250,000, an extra wellbeing point requires an extra $156,000.
He said annual household incomes under $30,000 for single parents, on average, take wellbeing below the normal range.
Having the support of a partner allows the wellbeing of parents living with their child to enter the normal range at an income of $31,000-$60,000. Single parents do not enter the normal range until they reach an annual income of between $61,000-$100,000.
Professor Cummins says interestingly, men who live alone require three times as much income to be happier than women. Women enter the normal range at an income of $15,000-$30,000, men require between $100,000-$150,000.
The What makes us happy? report also reveals that where one lives is also a contributing factor to wellbeing.
When it comes to country versus city living, people who live in a country town tend to be the happiest. However, people who live in remote to highly remote areas of Australia lose their ‘rural advantage’ and have a level of wellbeing no different from their city cousins.
The Report has compiled 10 years of research into the wellbeing of Australians to unlock some of the secrets to ‘what makes us happy’.
Professor Cummins says when it comes to gender difference women tend to fare better than men. Women have a higher wellbeing and are not as affected by external factors such as loss of employment and being single.
Australian Unity group managing director Rohan Mead says since its conception the Index has become a leading source of information on how Australians feel about themselves.
Mead says people living in Melbourne and Brisbane have the highest wellbeing of Australia’s capital cities, with Perth and Sydney lagging behind.
Although location affects wellbeing, so does whether they own their own home or rent.
He says the phenomenal hike in house prices hasn’t seemed to put a dampener on the 'feel-good' from home-ownership—people with a mortgage have a higher level of wellbeing than those renting, regardless of income level.