Residz Team 3 min read
Aussies are known for their laid back “she’ll be right” attitude to life.
But new research shows Australians haven’t fully recovered their pre-Covid optimism. On average they’re more financially stressed now than at any time during the pandemic period.
The ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, in partnership with the Social Research Centre, surveyed 3370 Australians in January 2023.
It looked at Aussies’ wellbeing, and attitude towards political and social institutions. Here we look at some of the findings.
Wellbeing up but we’re still not satisfied
Wellbeing measures show improvement since the darkest days of the pandemic but life satisfaction is lower than it was in late 2019/early 2020.
Psychological distress is also better since it’s lowest levels during Covid, but it is now back to pre-pandemic levels.
The survey shows some of this might be sheeted home to financial stress.
Prices are a problem
Measures of financial stress show it is now higher than it was pre-pandemic, with almost half of Australians thinking that rising prices are ‘a very big problem.’
27.9% of Australians were finding it difficult (or ‘very’ difficult) on their current income, more than 10 percentage points higher than in November 2020.
This was from four response options: Living comfortably on present income; Coping on present income; Finding it difficult on present income; and Finding it very difficult on present income
49.9% of Australians said they thought price increases (inflation) was a ‘very big problem’ and 7.8% thought it was only a small problem.
While nearly one in two did think inflation was a very big problem, it is slightly improved from the 56.9% thinking this was the case a year earlier.
Worries higher for those on lower incomes
The survey found that, on balance, a slightly higher percentage of Australians were either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ worried about debt now than 14 years ago.
Controlling for employment and education amongst other things, the survey found those who live in a household in the bottom two income quintiles have a lower life satisfaction than those in the middle quintile, whereas those in the upper two quintiles have higher levels of life satisfaction than those in the middle.
Loneliness still affecting one in three
Loneliness is being tipped to be the biggest challenge for 10 Australian survivalists in the upcoming SBS documentary series Alone Australia (late March).
But the ANU survey found that loneliness is already an issue for many Australians, without having to survive alone in the Tasmanian wilderness.
While nearly half of Australians (45.8%) experienced ‘very high’ levels of loneliness in April 2020, over two years later more than one-third of Australians (35.9%) reported having experienced loneliness at least some of the time in the week prior to the survey.
Do we like where the country is headed?
It seems Aussies are quite positive about the country’s direction, and its institutions.
On views about living in Australia, 73.9% of respondents said they were currently satisfied or very satisfied with the way the country was headed.
Interestingly, a similar survey by Gallup in the U.S. showed only 23% of respondents were satisfied with the way things were going in the U.S.
While the positivity of Australians is not universal, the research team said that it compared favorably with other developed democracies.
“On average Australians have a lot of confidence in their government and other institutions, are satisfied with how democracy is working, and satisfied with the way the country is heading.
“However….it is also important to understand variation within a country on these key measures. Put simply, there are Australians who are far less satisfied, and less confident than others.”
So, we are a bit better off when it comes to wellbeing than we were during Covid. But, our income and other factors mean some of us find things very difficult to make ends meet right now.
The survey authors say that although the findings on financial stress don’t appear to
have translated yet into psychological distress, there “is no guarantee that this will not start to
emerge as the cumulative impact of price and interest rates rises take a heavier and heavier toll.”
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