Feelings of greater connectedness, personal safety and a higher living standard are contributing to happier young Australian adults, a Deakin study has found.
An analysis of 16 years of data from the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index survey has found the life satisfaction scores of the nation’s 18-25 year olds has improved significantly since 2002, from 73.4 (out of 100) to 77.8. This wellbeing improvement was evident in young people still living at home with their parents and those who had moved out.
In contrast, overall life satisfaction for those aged 76 and over has fallen since 2002. However, this group continues to enjoy the highest wellbeing level of any age cohort.
Lead author of the report, Dr Delyse Hutchinson, a Senior Research Fellow within Deakin University’s School of Psychology, said that subjective wellbeing remained stable for all groups, except for the youngest and oldest groups of Australians.
“Over the past 16 years, we have surveyed more than 60,000 adults of all ages and what really stood out in the data was the steadily-improving trend in wellbeing for 18-25 year olds,” Dr Hutchinson said.
“While the survey doesn’t ask why young people are feeling happier, the findings appear to run counter to the prevailing view that young Australians are increasingly burdened by issues such as being locked out of the housing market, education debt, and suggestions that digital technology and social media are creating a generation of isolated young people.
“Other national survey data may be relevant. For example, rates of alcohol use and smoking among young Australians have been steadily declining in recent years.”
Dr Hutchinson said the study also examined the living arrangements of 18-25 year olds, finding that living at home with parents or having moved out doesn’t make a difference to the wellbeing among young people generally.
While Australians aged 76+ consistently have the highest wellbeing of any adult cohort, there has been a decline in the past 16 years. In 2002, the average wellbeing score of people aged 76+ was 79.5 (out of 100), falling to 77.2 in 2017. Older people reported declining wellbeing scores in the areas of future security, personal relationships, achievement in life and standard of living.
“It is interesting that while older people’s satisfaction with their health has remained constant, these other areas of their life did not. This reinforces the notion that health is only one component of overall satisfaction with life.”
“This research helps us to understand what makes people happy and content and how different groups are faring across time, which is critically important. From a public policy perspective, knowing the groups who are having difficulties and how we can help to improve their happiness can make a big difference to their health, ability to function and relationships with others. It also reduces violence and anti-social behaviour and puts people in the best position to contribute to society.”
Amongst Australians aged between 25 and 76, there are some groups more at risk, including people who are living in remote rural areas, unemployed or living with mental health conditions.
Adults aged in their 40s and 50s are also more likely to have slightly lower levels of wellbeing, due to life demands such as work commitments and family responsibilities. However wellbeing generally rises as these demands reduce and people move into older adulthood.
The Personal Wellbeing Index measures seven domains identified as critical to wellbeing: standard of living, health, achieving in life, personal relationships, safety, community connectedness, and future security.
Published by Deakin Research 24 July 2018
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