How satisfied and optimistic are Australians feeling? And what does it all have to do with happiness?

On average, we’re some of the happiest people in the world.

How are Australians feeling about the future? New data from the Medibank Better Health Index says despite a lot of doom and gloom on the news, we’re actually feeling pretty good.

We’re feeling busy and optimistic

Medibank Better Health data found more than 65% of us would say that we live “full and busy lives”. Women were slightly more likely than men to respond positively, as were those aged 35-49 closely followed by 50-64 years. Young people aged 18-24 were slightly less likely to report feeling their lives were full and busy compared to older Australians over 65 years of age.

Across the board, 71% of Australians are feeling optimistic about the future. Medibank Better Health data shows, in general, Australians are a pretty positive bunch. When asked about whether they feel optimistic about the future, there was little difference in optimism across the age groups and genders.

Commenting on the findings, Medibank Clinical Director Dr Sue Abhary said:

“It’s great news that so many Aussies are feeling optimistic about the future. Having an optimistic outlook contributes to your overall wellbeing. And while being busy all the time isn’t always a good thing, living a full life with strong social connections, purpose and goals is good for us. We know factors like an enjoyable and fulfilling career, strong friendships and taking part in activities you enjoy, like sports or volunteering, contribute to wellbeing.”

How does Australia’s happiness stack up on a global scale?

The World Happiness Report is a survey produced yearly, and aims to track the happiness and wellbeing of the population. Survey participants are asked “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life these days?” and answer on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely satisfied.

Australia currently ranks ninth in the world in terms of happiness, right behind New Zealand. The average happiness across Australia, New Zealand, and North America was 7.05, while the world average response was 5.3.

MORE: How physical activity and social connection benefit your health

The OECD Better Life Index is another measure of life satisfaction carried out in nations who belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Better Life Index reports Australians score their life satisfaction at an average of 7.3, compared to an OECD average of 6.5. This report also notes that Australia outperforms the OECD average for people in paid employment, air and water quality, and civic participation.

Are we protecting our future?

While it’s encouraging that so many of us are feeling optimistic about the future, a recent study shows that as a country we may not be doing enough to protect it. While many Australians do hold some life insurance, it’s the level of cover (with regard to the amount insured) that is often falling short of what would be considered adequate protection for many.

On top of that, the same study found that only a third of Australia’s working population has income protection insurance. If you’ve worked hard to build a life that you’re proud of and feeling good about what you’ve got to look forward to, it’s worth considering how you’ll protect it if your source of income stopped and you were unable to continue working.

You can learn more about life insurance and income protection here.

Can relationships help improve our happiness?

According to Dr. Robert Waldinger, Harvard Professor of Psychiatry and director of a nearly 80 year longitudinal study on adult life and happiness, close relationships are an important factor for life satisfaction and happiness.

In his 2015 Tedx talk, Waldinger says

"The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."

If you’re looking for ways to connect socially and feel physically better, check out Medibank Free and Active, which is an ongoing program we’ve launched to help combat inactivity and promote community connection. Find a Free and Active event near you here.

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