This is what makes Australians happiest

A boy catches an AFL football at the remote community of Yuendumu in the NT. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Happiness, and the pursuit of more happiness, is the subject of much research by psychologists and social scientists.

Full understanding of this human condition is still elusive but we do know a few things. We’re all more likely to be happier if we have a happy friend and yes, money does matter, up to a point. We need enough of it to live well but after that more money doesn’t make a lot of difference.

The latest bit of happiness research, using immense amounts of data collected by the HILDA (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) survey from the University of Melbourne, is all about self-reported happiness.

The HILDA Survey, which has been running since 2001, interviews about 17,000 Australians each year.

Our big cities are creating unhappy Australians, according to the research. But in the bush, away from the crowds and busy roads, people feel better about their lives.

Those who live in towns or rural locations of less than 1,000 people are significantly more satisfied with life.

Living in well-maintained homes and gardens adds to life satisfaction. As does having neighbours who help out.

According to Roger Wilkins, an associate professor from the University’s Melbourne Institute, women in Queensland are rated as having the highest levels of life satisfaction.

Wilkins’ analysis of HILDA data identified these insights on life satisfaction:


  • Major cities offer the least life satisfaction.
  • Living with a partner improves the health of men but not women.
  • 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.
  • People in wealthier areas report higher life satisfaction.
  • Job

  • Changing employer is the best way to improve earnings.
  • The gender pay gap is increasing for part-time workers.
  • Australians over 50 are the least likely to re-enter the work force.
  • Relationships

  • Men and women in defacto relationships are more satisfied with their partners
  • The longer the relationship, the lower the satisfaction, except after 20 years of marriage.
  • Children make us less happy in relationships.
  • On average, men are more satisfied with their partners than women.
  • 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.

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