Happiness statistics 2021
Data reveals children, financial security and a good Internet connection make Aussies happy.
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What is the key to happiness?
A multi-million-dollar industry has stemmed from trying to answer this question. Scholars, authors, life coaches and religious groups have spent centuries trying to decipher exactly what makes humans happy.
While there is no definitive answer, researchers have discovered that income, social relationships and philanthropy can all have an impact on happiness.
Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker has asked more than 25,000 Australians whether or not they consider themselves happy, and the results show it's not just money that makes a difference.
Happiness trends in Australia
Overall, 78% of Australians consider themselves to be happy. Finder's data shows men (79%) are slightly more likely than women (77%) to say they are happy. However, it seems age is a more determining factor – baby boomers (82%) are the happiest generation, while gen X (74%) are a bit less cheerful.
Those from the Northern Territory (87%) report the highest levels of happiness. Meanwhile Tasmanians (73%) seem to be a bit more low-spirited. Could it be the cooler weather?
Money and happiness
Not surprisingly, household income is positively related to happiness. Less than two-thirds (62%) of households earning between $10,000 and $20,000 per year report being happy, compared with 88% for those earning above $200,000. However, the chart does show that an increase in income makes the most difference to happiness at lower income brackets. At higher incomes, a marginal increase in income has a decreasingly material impact on happiness.
Finder's research is consistent with external studies which consistently show income to have a stronger positive effect on happiness for those on lower incomes. While previous studies had found happiness to plateau beyond an income of around $115,000 per year, recent research from the University of Pennsylvania has revealed money continues to be a determining factor of happiness as income rises, but it becomes less relevant than other factors like health and family.
Pets and children
When it comes to children, it seems the more the merrier. Those with five or more kids report the highest level of happiness (85%), compared to 76% for those without children. Similarly, those with one (82%) or two (80%) dogs are happier than those without a furry companion (77%).
However, Finder's research shows cats actually have a negative effect on happiness – and the more cats one has, the less likely they are to report being happy. While 79% of those without cats are happy, this drops to 78% for those with two cats, and down to 70% for those with three or more feline friends.
Credit cards and debt
According to the data, having a credit card is correlated with overall happiness. Specifically, those with three credit cards are the most likely to be happy (84%), compared to those without a plastic card at all (73%). But don't go spending yourself into debt just yet – the data also shows those who pay off their card every month (84%) are happier than those with debt. Not surprisingly, the longer it will take to pay off a person's credit card debt, the less likely they are to be happy. Only half (50%) of those with five or more years of credit card debt report being happy overall.
Australians are obsessed with property, and owning your own home is a sure sign of financial freedom. Of survey respondents who are not yet homeowners, those who estimate they will own their first home within the next five years are more likely to be happy (78%) than those who are 20 years or more away from their home ownership goals (65%) or those who don't think they will ever be able to afford a home (53%). Interestingly though, those who say they are not interested in ever owning a property (75%) are almost as content as the soon-to-be homeowners.
It's not over once you own your home though. Mortgage and rent stress also contribute to an individual's level of happiness. Those who say they struggle to pay their rent or home loan repayments are substantially less likely to be happy overall (60%) than those who don't struggle (80%).
Financial stress is arguably one of the leading drivers of overall happiness. Those who say they are not at all stressed with their financial situation have significantly higher levels of happiness (93%) than those who are extremely stressed (53%). There is a similar story when it comes to job security too; those who are very secure in their jobs (90%) are happier than those who are very insecure (51%). Researchers have found financial stress and security to be significant predictors of overall happiness, and no less important than physical health or personal relationships. The ability to pay bills on time, repay debts and afford basic necessities alleviates anxiety and provides a feeling of "safeness" in the world.
It's also clear that income and savings have a significant role to play when it comes to happiness, particularly for lower income earners. Happy Australians have more than twice as much money in savings ($32,639) than unhappy Australians ($16,190), and they save more than twice as much money per month ($870 compared to $382). Those who say they could live off their savings for more than a year report the highest level of happiness (88%), compared to just 63% for those who could survive for less than one week.
Trusting in institutions
Interestingly, Finder found the happiest people are those who have trust in the government and large corporations. The data shows the largest improvements in happiness come from trusting the government (21 percentage points) and insurance providers (21 percentage points), followed by energy providers (20 percentage points), mortgage lenders (19 percentage points) and telecommunications companies (19 percentage points).
Having a good Internet connection
Frustrated with your dodgy broadband? It could be bad for your mental wellbeing. The happiest people are those who say they are extremely satisfied with their Internet connection (85%), compared to 66% for those who are extremely dissatisfied. And those who never experience buffering issues (81%) are happier than those who experience dropouts daily (73%).
Overall, happy Australians seem to be spending slightly more on their broadband per month ($86) than unhappy Australians ($74). If uninterrupted Netflix and video calls bring you joy then it could be worth upgrading your home Internet.
Finder's research shows that those with insurance are more likely to report being happy overall. Income protection insurance takes the top spot, with 84% of people who have this product saying they are happy. This is followed by home and contents insurance (81%) and health insurance (81%). Why is this? One explanation is that insurance provides a sense of financial security in the event of an accident, and this can help to relieve worry or anxiety about the future. If you know you're covered by income protection insurance, you might be less anxious about the possibility of losing your job.
How do Australians compare globally?
According to the World Happiness Report, Australia ranks 12 out of 149 countries for happiness. The report, published by the United Nations, assesses the happiness of each UN member country using both self-reported quality of life measures and a selection of socioeconomic indicators including GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support, trust and corruption, perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity.
The results show Finland to be the world's happiest nation for the fourth year in a row, followed by Iceland and Denmark. All of the top 10 happiest countries – with the exception of New Zealand – are located in Europe.
On the other hand, the bottom 10 countries are all located in lower-income or conflict-ridden nations, indicating that income, political instability and national security are likely closely linked to individual levels of happiness.
Top 10 happiest countries in the world
|Country||Happiness score (out of 10)|
Top 10 unhappiest countries in the world
|Country||Happiness score (out of 10)|
Tips for a happy and financially secure future
Invest in good relationships. Research consistently shows that personal relationships and social connectedness are the leading indicators of happiness and wellbeing. The Harvard Study of Adult Development followed 268 men over the course of 80 years and found close relationships to be the number one factor in keeping people happy, mentally stimulated, and helping them to live longer. Another study among retirees in China found social participation to have a significant impact on happiness and wellbeing later in life – so keep your loved ones close.
Safeguard your assets. There's a reason people with insurance are happier. Being adequately insured – from life insurance to home insurance – can protect you from severe financial stress or debt in the event of an illness or accident, and can also relieve concerns about your family's financial future. Just be sure to compare providers and seek out a competitive rate so you're only paying for what you need.
Build towards a financial future. Studies have shown that financial security is one of the leading determinants of happiness among retirees so it's worth taking a good look at your superannuation before you get there. Choose a high-performing fund to ensure you make the most of compound growth over time, and try to keep your annual fees below 1% of your balance per year. If you can, salary sacrificing part of your income allows you to contribute to your fund before tax, paving the path for a healthy and stress-free retirement.
- Finder Consumer Sentiment Tracker
- AMP, Happiness Survey 2017
- University of Pennsylvania, 'Experienced well-being rises with income, even above $75,000 per year", 2020
- Netemeyer et al., "How am I doing? Perceived financial well-being, its potential antecedents, and its relation to overall well-being", 2017
- United Nations, World Happiness Report 2021
- Harvard, Harvard Study of Adult Development
- Zhang et al., "Social participation and subjective well-being amongst retirees in China", 2014
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