As part of the Australian Psychological Society Compass for Life survey, 1,000 Australian adults responded to a series of wellbeing, behavioural and social media questions. The survey utilised the evidence-based wellbeing measure, the PERMA – profiler, which measures flourishing across five key domains (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment) which have been shown to support psychological wellbeing.
Overall, the survey respondents reported a positive sense of wellbeing, with most people having above- average scores for wellbeing. This included a quarter who reported very high levels of wellbeing.
Australians appear to have lives rich in relationships and meaning, rating highest on these two measures. In particular, strong relationships and community connectedness appear to be related to wellbeing for Australians.
Interestingly, adults reporting a high usage of social media, a platform designed to bring people closer together, also reported significantly higher levels of Loneliness and Negative emotions.
The future looks bright: For Australian adults, wellbeing was closely linked to life satisfaction and future outlook. People with the highest wellbeing score were also the most optimistic about the future and satisfied with their lives. Overall, about one in four of Australians adults are highly satisfied with their lives (24%) and future outlook (23%), while one in five Australian adults are unsatisfied with their lives (21%) and future outlook (22%).
A good life: When asked to spontaneously name the three things that make for a good life, Australians answered: good health/wellbeing, family/relationships and wealth/money.
Health and particularly relationships were shown to have a strong relationship with wellbeing. Although over half the Australians surveyed said that acquiring valuable things was a sign of success or made them happy, the results showed that household income was unrelated to wellbeing.
Wellbeing: A clear pattern of attitudes, activities and behaviours emerged from the data, suggesting a template for wellbeing.
Age/life stage: People aged 65+ scored significantly higher on overall wellbeing and lower on Negative emotions and Loneliness compared to the rest of the sample. People aged 25-34 scored significantly higher scores on Loneliness than adults 35 years and over.
Just over five hundred (518) Australian adolescents (aged 13-17) took part in the APS Compass for Life survey which included the EPOCH wellbeing measure as well as a range of behavioural and social media questions. The EPOCH measures wellbeing in adolescents across five key domains – Engagement, Perseverance, Optimism, Connectedness and Happiness.
Overall, Australian adolescents report a positive sense of wellbeing and a strong sense of Connectedness.
In addition, doing activities regularly such as using their strengths, broadening their world view, having hobbies and reading were associated with significantly higher scores across all the measures of wellbeing.
However, there are some concerning findings: about one in six Australian adolescents are unsatisfied with their lives (15%) and future outlook (16%). Almost one in three Australian adolescents (30%) report that acquiring valuable things such as expensive clothes, accessories and other things makes them happy.
Also concerning was that only 45% of adolescents feel a strong sense of belonging to their community (e.g. school). The least connected scored lower across all domains of wellbeing.
The findings suggest that there are a range of regular activities that Australian adolescents could do to improve their wellbeing including being active, taking time to reflect and relax, being involved with community, catching up with friends and family, eating well, reading, travelling and having new experiences as well as finding a hobby.
Wellbeing is our ultimate goal – we all want to improve our health, achieve our goals, and live meaningful and satisfying lives. During Psychology Week, the Australian Psychological Society is running the Compass for Life campaign to impart psychology knowledge and skills to Australians by sharing Ways to Thrive, distilled from psychology research.
Psychologists have been searching for the keys to wellbeing, looking to understand what factors help people to thrive.
One prominent theory of wellbeing is embodied in the discipline of positive psychology developed by Dr Martin Seligman, where research has shown there are five pillars underpinning our psychological wellbeing and happiness – positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment, known as PERMA.
We can improve our health, happiness and satisfaction with life by focusing on some of these aspects of our lives.
Positive emotion: The ability to embrace life with optimism, which doesn’t mean no ups and downs but an overall ability to bounce back and view life positively, enjoying a full range of positive emotions including joy, enjoyment and gratitude.
Engagement: Being involved in activities, often the ones that we love doing or those that utilise our strengths, that transport us and absorb us makes for a deeper more interesting life.
Relationships: Our connections to other people - partner, friends, family, boss, colleagues, children and/or community - help buoy us and give us a sense of being loved and secure.
Meaning: Feeling that what we do or what we are working towards matters, not just to us but to others and in the wider scheme of things, gives meaning to our lives.
Accomplishment – Being able to set and achieve goals and enjoy some mastery and control over our lives has shown to help us derive a sense of purpose from life.
In 2016, the Australian Psychological Society will survey Australian adults and young people to measure their wellbeing and life satisfaction across the five key domains. The results will be released during Psychology Week, and during the week Australians will be invited to take an online survey to find their own measure of happiness and wellbeing.
Psychologists know many ways to help people thrive and during Psychology Week, the APS and APS Psychologists in partnership with experts from the Centre of Positive Psychology, the University of Melbourne, will be sharing this expertise with Australians to help them build their strengths, improve their wellbeing and greater life satisfaction.