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Glass half full for Aussie men

New research finds almost one million more ‘optimistic’ men than women

Despite economic volatility, cost of living pressures and global political instability, new research confirms most Australians are optimistic about life. 

A study released today by Australian Unity has found more than 11.7 million Australians call themselves optimists and they are more likely to be men (68% of men are optimists compared to 57% of women).

The Australian Unity Optimism Study[1] found good health and enjoyment of life as the strongest drivers of optimism, while Australian politics and global issues have a very small impact on optimism overall.

Australian Unity spokesperson Laura Jennings says the research explored people’s levels of optimism about life. Jennings defined optimism as the state of being positive and hopeful about the future.

“If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then Mars must be a happier place. The study shows there are almost one million more optimistic men than optimistic women in Australia,” Ms Jennings said.

“It’s the personal things that we can generally control that have a big impact on Australians’ optimism levels. Factors including health (ranked most important) and enjoyment of life (ranked 2nd)  have a far greater impact on how positive we feel about life, compared to global issues (ranked 2nd last) and politics (least important).”

The research has uncovered clear generational and geographical differences, but the most distinct contrasts were between men and women across all ages:

  • Men are more optimistic about life overall than women (68% compared to 57%)
  • Male Baby Boomers are the most positive (71%) followed by male Gen X (69%) then male Gen Y (66%)
  • In comparison, every generation of females is less optimistic than males. Female Baby Boomers are the most optimistic (64%) followed by Gen X females (57%) then Gen Y females (52%)
  • Men, in general, are more optimistic about their physical health (71% compared to 58% of women) and mental health (76% compared to 63% of women) than women
  • Gen Y males are as optimistic about their physical health as Gen X males (both 72%). Baby Boomer males are the least optimistic about their health (68%)
  • Gen Y females are the least optimistic about their physical health (54%). Baby Boomers are the most optimistic (61%) followed by Gen X females (57%)
  • Gen Y is the least optimistic generation (59%) compared to Gen X (63%) and Baby Boomers (67%)

The most optimistic Aussie is: 

The most pessimistic Aussie is: 

  • Male
  • Baby Boomer
  • Victorian
  • Full-time worker
  • University educated  
  • Is the type of person who plans ahead
  • Female
  • Gen Y
  • South Australian
  • Unemployed; looking for work
  • High school educated
  • Believes luck is the most important factor in predicting success

The release of the survey coincides with Australian Unity’s announcement of a new partnership with The Resilience Project, a national organisation teaching Australians positive health strategies.

Importantly, for those who instead see the glass as ‘half empty’, optimism can be learned. The Resilience Project’s Founder Hugh van Cuylenburg has made it his mission to teach Australians how to be more positive, starting with the youngest generations.     

“I’m not surprised the research identified Gen Y as the least optimistic generation (59%) compared to Gen X (63%) and Baby Boomers (67%). One in two Gen Y females are pessimistic about their mental health,” Mr van Cuylenburg said.

“I’ve delivered programs in more than 400 schools around Australia and seen first-hand that the growing levels of anxiety and depression in young people.

“It’s evident women set themselves much higher standards than men. I see this every day in the schools, workplaces and sporting clubs I work with. When women don’t reach these standards they’re hard on themselves and this is clearly impacting on their levels of optimism. The good news is, anyone can rewire their brain to scan the world for the positive.”

Australian Unity is supporting The Resilience Project to give more people access to tools and programs proven to help build levels of optimism.

“An optimist is less likely to die from infection, cancer, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease[2]. Optimists are also likely to enjoy better levels of mental health[3]. Science shows optimists are significantly more successful than pessimists in aversive events and when unforeseen circumstances get in the way of achieving important life-goals,” Mr van Cuylenburg said.

From private health cover to investing in retirement, accessing in-home services or saving for your kid’s education, Australian Unity offers a range of services designed to help people make the most out of life.

“Australian Unity is optimistic about our country’s outlook and we are calling on every Australian to join in that optimism,” Ms Jennings said.


Notes to the Editor: 

Australian Unity’s Laura Jennings is available for interviews upon request.

Founder of the Resilience Project, Hugh van Cuylenburg, is also available.

A family case study can be supplied for pictorial opportunities.

About Australian Unity

Australian Unity is a national health, wealth and living mutual company providing services to almost one million Australians, including 300,000 members. Australian Unity’s history as a trusted mutual organisation dates back to 1840. It has grown organically—by continually evolving to provide the services and products needed by the communities it serves—as well as through successful strategic mergers and diversification in to new business activities.

About The Resilience Project

The Resilience Project delivers emotionally engaging programs to schools, sports clubs and business’s providing them with evidence based, practical strategies to build resilience. Australian Unity and The Resiilience Project are currently developing a mobile app for adults and children. The app will be available soon.

[1] The research was commissioned by Australian Unity and conducted by Lonergan Research in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard. Lonergan Research surveyed 1,091 Australians aged 18+. Surveys were distributed throughout Australia including both capital city and non-capital city areas. The data has been weighted to the latest population estimates sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.