The Bankwest Happiness Survey
23 December 2011
The Bankwest Happiness Survey has revealed what many of us already know – we’re generally a pretty happy lot in WA.
Four out of five West Australians say they are satisfied with life, almost nine out of 10 say they are happy and three-quarters believe they are even happier than they were last year.
Most also think they are happier than everyone else.
According to Happiness Institute founder and respected academic Tim Sharp, that is a reason to be cheerful.
“Happiness is about much more than most people think,” he said.
"Most people think it is just about feeling good, which is important in itself because we all want to be happier if we can, but, more importantly, happy people are actually better people.
“They are healthier so that impacts directly on health costs, and are more productive, which impacts organisations and businesses.
“They are also more altruistic and generous so they give more and do more good things, so the more happy people we have the better societies we have.”
With a happiness index of 70 per cent and a wellbeing index of 71 per cent, WA is right in the “healthy” range for developed nations
But Dr Sharp said the best news was that personal relationships were one of the most important things to West Australians.
Overwhelmingly, people in WA said their parents, partner, children and spending time with friends brought them the most joy.
“It’s one of the most significant findings,” Dr Sharp said. “It might be surprising to a lot of people who I think wrongly consider many of us in the Western world to be selfish.
“This shows we are not selfish, we are not hedonists. We still like to have fun and look after ourselves but one of the strongest findings was the importance of family and friends and community which is a lot of what happiness is about.”
Dr Sharp said when looking at all the advantages of WA, its population could “do better”.
“When we compare WA to other States and countries, we have got it incredibly good – a fantastic geography and climate, very good economy, political and cultural security and safety,” he said.
“When you look at all those factors, yes, we are doing well, but why can’t we do better? We could all benefit from practising more appreciation and gratitude.”
Marisa Guerini, founder of WA-based company Positive Force, which offers workshops and coaching on living a happier and more successful life, hoped the happiness survey would encourage people to look at their own lives and do a “happiness audit”.
“By looking at what it is that makes other groups of people happy, we can learn what we can do to increase our own happiness,” she said.
“It’s not just about knowing what makes you happy, it’s about doing it. You can be happier and you can help others be happy by increasing your happiness.”
So who is the happiest in WA?
The survey revealed that older people – those over 55 and 65 – empty-nester couples and volunteers felt the most content, connected to their community and safer and happier with life as a whole, scoring between 77 and 79 per cent on the happiness index.
Conversely, single empty-nesters, singles with no children and the unemployed tipped the scales by being significantly less happy in most areas of their life, scoring between 62 and 63 per cent.
Dr Sharp said that unemployment in WA was comparatively low but governments should offer more help to those out of work.
Politicians should plan for ever-increasing single empty-nesters and consider how to improve the wellbeing of older people living alone.
“Although a lot of people whinge about work, the reality is that people who are employed are far happier and healthier than people who are unemployed,” he said.
“An increasingly ageing population and more people living alone is something forward-thinking governments and politicians will have to address or else we will have a big group of people who are unhappy and not satisfied.”
Despite WA’s obvious prosperity, the survey revealed that the old adage that money does not buy happiness seems to hold true.
While happiness increased slightly as household income rose, 73 per cent of people said their happiness was not influenced by material possessions.
People were the most satisfied with their personal relationships, sense of safety and their standard of living.