CONFIRMED: Australians believe society is becoming angrier and more aggressive

Ian Waldie/Getty Images
  • Around 75% of Australians believe our society is becoming angrier and more aggressive.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse, concerns about money and changing cultural values dominated were cited as the main factors fuelling the aggression in society.
  • Anxiety levels for young and middle-aged women have increased quite sharply in recent quarters, and are significantly higher than levels in other demographic groupings.
  • Many Australians said they turned to alcohol and smoking, and outright withdrawal from social interaction, in an attempt to deal with their anxiety.

If you think Australian society is becoming angrier and more aggressive in 2018, you’re not alone.

According to the latest Australian Wellbeing report from the National Australia Bank (NAB), the vast majority of Australians think it is.

“In this report, we asked Australians to think about their day to day interactions with people and whether we, as a society are angrier and more aggressive, said Dean Pearson, Head of Behavioural Economics at the NAB.

“The results paint a bleak picture.

“Around three in four said our society was in fact becoming angrier and more aggressive. Only 18% said it wasn’t and 10% didn’t know.

“It is clear from this report that many Australians believe we are not only a more anxious society, but also an angrier and more aggressive one.”

As seen in the chart below from the report, more women said things had become worse than men, particularly among older age groups.

NAB

“By age and gender, 76% of women aged 30-49 and over 50 said that society was getting angrier and more aggressive, compared to just 67% of women aged 18-29,” Dean said.

“Middle aged men (71%) and over 50 (72%) were also more pessimistic than 18-29 year old men (66%).

“We suspect pessimism in older age groups likely reflect a longer life experience to look back on.”

So why do so many Australians think we, as a nation, are now becoming more aggressive and angrier towards each other?

Drug and alcohol abuse, concerns about money and changing cultural values dominated the list.

NAB

“Around 40% blame drugs & alcohol, money worries and changing values and social norms,” Dean said.

Interestingly, a not insignificant 28% said the increased prominence of social media was another factor, along with around 20-25% who nominated work or job worries, breakdown in family relationships and law and order, including insufficient penalties.

Dean says many that many of these factors are also cited as key drivers of personal wellbeing, both from a positive and negative perspective.

In the latest survey, Australians reported lower levels of wellbeing across all components of the index — life worth, happiness, life satisfaction and anxiety — although the headline wellbeing index still remained above the series long-run average, albeit by a small margin.

“Our homes, family and personal relationships, personal safety, standard of living and feeling part of our local community are the factors that contributed positively to the personal wellbeing of most Australians in the latest survey, ” Dean said.

At the other end of the spectrum, the report found that anxiety was still the biggest detractor from wellbeing, particularly for young and middle-aged women.

NAB

“Young men aged 18-29 and men over 50 said they were coping best, and young women aged 18-29 and women aged 30-49 not coping as well,” Dean said.

For the first time the NAB also asked survey respondents how they attempted to deal with anxiety, and while many nominated things such as exercise, listening to music, spending time with family and friends, many said they turned to alcohol and smoking, and outright withdrawal from social interaction, in an attempt to deal with their anxiety.

NAB

Some of those factors were also cited as reasons why Australia is now deemed to be a more aggressive and angrier nation, suggesting that attempts to deal with anxiety may actually be compounding the aggression seen in Australian society today.

Over 2,000 Australians participated in the latest survey.

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