“We have a pretty stable economy, and a good standard of living on the whole. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but on balance we do.”—Associate Professor Delyse Hutchinson, lead researcher of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index.
- The events of the past 20 years have shaped how we feel—not just personally, but as a nation.
- Satisfaction with government is one factor that has declined significantly in the past decade.
- However, the active response to the spread of COVID-19 saw a notable spike in government satisfaction.
From the joyous celebrations of the 2000 Olympic Games and legalisation of same-sex marriage to the devastation of the Black Saturday and 2020 bushfires, the events of the past 20 years have shaped how we feel—not just personally, but as a nation.
The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index measures the impact of these events, as well as broader community factors such as access to public healthcare, living in a civil and safe society, and having a stable economy, by asking people how satisfied they are with life in Australia. This, in turn, helps us understand our national wellbeing.
The bigger picture
As a nation, we’re fortunate that the societal factors affecting the “us” in wellbeing are mostly positive.
As Associate Professor Delyse Hutchinson, the lead researcher at Deakin University of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, observes: “We have a pretty stable economy, and a good standard of living on the whole. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but on balance we do. We have access to services and healthcare. We have food, water and housing or, if we don’t, there are services that are available to help. These are important indicators of a civil society.”
The counterpoint to this societal stability is the fact that certain aspects of national life remain more volatile, with terrorist attacks, pandemics, bushfires, floods, cyclones, and other major events and natural disasters all affecting our collective wellbeing.
As a result, our national wellbeing scores show more variability than our personal wellbeing scores.
COVID-19 and the government
In Australia, satisfaction with government is one factor that has declined significantly in the past decade, with party instability and frequent changes in leadership thought to be the main contributors.
However, 2020 saw a notable spike in satisfaction with the government, triggered by the active response to the spread of COVID-19.
This also had an interesting influence on wellbeing, with lower levels of achieving in life balanced out by higher scores in standard of living and personal safety—resulting in stable overall wellbeing scores throughout the pandemic.