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What is the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index?

We’ve been measuring the wellbeing of Australians with Deakin University since 2000. Known as the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, it’s one of the most enduring and credible studies of wellbeing in Australia.

The Index tracks how satisfied people across Australia are with their lives as a whole, using seven key areas of wellbeing, such as standard of living and future security. It shows that real wellbeing is about much more than just health.

The insights from the Index say a lot about how we’re doing as a nation—and more importantly, what each of us can do to improve our quality of life. Using the Wellbeing Index as a guide, everything we do—from the smart products and services we deliver, to the way we go about our day to day—is for building real wellbeing for all Australians.

What is wellbeing?

Contrary to popular belief, wellbeing is different from ‘happiness’. Happiness can come and go in a moment, whereas wellbeing is a more stable state of being well, feeling satisfied and contented.

The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index is based on average levels of satisfaction with various aspects of personal and national life. Satisfaction is expressed as a percentage score, where 0 percent is completely dissatisfied and 100 percent is completely satisfied. So a survey score of 76.5 percent on personal wellbeing means Australians, on average, feel 76.5 percent satisfied with their life.

Elements of the Personal Wellbeing Index are satisfaction with:

● Your health;
● Your personal relationships;
● How safe you feel;
● Your standard of living;
● What you are achieving in life;
● Feeling part of the community; and
● Your future security.

Elements of the National Wellbeing Index are satisfaction with:

● Australian social conditions;
● Australian economic situation;
● The state of the Australian environment;
● Australian business;
● National security; and
● Government.

As well as looking at personal and national wellbeing, our 'Wellbeing of Australians' reports are released annually. These surveys explore issues of social importance as they relate to wellbeing. For example, survey 13 investigated caring at home, and the impact that providing informal care to a family member has on the wellbeing of carers. Other survey topics have included the effects of terrorism, personal financial debt, relationships and household structure, health and body weight and job security.

Why measure it?

Measures of how 'well' we are doing as a nation have conventionally been based on economic considerations such as Gross Domestic Product, employment rates and housing prices. However, in an era when Australians are richer than ever, more than one million adults and 100,000 young people are experiencing depression every year. The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index investigates additional factors impacting on our lives, filling the void not covered by economic considerations and producing a complete view of Australians’ wellbeing.

It also informs public debate about the sort of society we want to live in. It provides community organisations, government and business decision-makers with a credible measure of wellbeing for purposes ranging from strategic planning and policy making to providing every-day Australians with information they can use to improve their personal wellbeing. It engenders increasing awareness of important social issues impacting on the wellbeing of Australians.

The index is based on a working hypothesis that proposes wellbeing below a ‘normative range’ indicates a higher propensity to developing clinical depression. When people’s demands exceed their resources, this causes wellbeing to fall below the normative range. The index is therefore extremely useful at identifying groups of people in society whose demands are exceeding their resources and who require extra assistance if they are to avoid depression.

Why did Australian Unity develop the index?

Australian Unity is committed to making genuine contributions to society. The index is a demonstration of this commitment, by investigating factors that impact on the lives of every-day Australians.
 
Data from the index also provides insight into how we can help improve customers’ wellbeing and is extremely useful for informing public debate and policy makers about issues of national importance.

Who does the research?

Australian Unity developed the index in partnership with Deakin University and in close conjunction with leading researchers around the country.

Deakin University is responsible for all data analysis and the collation of each report. The database now contains more than 28,000 records.

In 2004 the International Society for Quality of Life Studies awarded Deakin University’s Professor Bob Cummins and colleagues “Best Paper” in their society’s journal, 'Social Indicators Research', for work based on findings from the index. The index also won the Victorian Public Health Award for excellence in public health capacity-building in the same year.

Professor Cummins also heads the International Wellbeing Group, which involves more than 200 researchers from 45 countries. This gives the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index a role in understanding personal wellbeing in an international context, through the lens of different cultures.

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