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“As we grow as a nation and evolve as a society, we need to remember that it is those we share our lives with who are at the core of our Real Wellbeing.”—Rohan Mead, Group Managing Director, Australian Unity.

Key points

  • Wellbeing relates to our quality of life, and includes both a subjective evaluation of our life and our objective circumstances, such as education, health and income.
  • The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index measures both the subjective and objective aspects of wellbeing.
  • Research shows there are numerous health, professional, family and economic benefits that are associated with people having greater wellbeing.

Wellbeing is a term that gets bandied about a lot these days—often in conjunction with sipping green smoothies and meditating at sunrise.

But the study and measurement of wellbeing is so much more than just practising wellness—it goes to the very core of how we are feeling about our lives as a whole.

Family holding hands looking over a lake

Subjective wellbeing

Wellbeing relates to our overall quality of life, and includes both the subjective evaluation of our life and our objective circumstances, such as education, health and income.

The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index measures both the subjective and objective aspects of wellbeing.

Associate Professor Delyse Hutchinson, the lead researcher of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, describes subjective wellbeing as something “that reflects how satisfied a person feels about their life and, in particular, how happy, healthy and content a person is in their life”.

Subjective wellbeing is personal, emphasises Delyse. What makes one person feel content or happy can differ markedly from what makes the next person feel that way—yet the two people could have similarly high levels of wellbeing.

Subjective wellbeing and happiness both indicate a positive outlook on life, and happiness is part of wellbeing. However, from a scientific standpoint it is important to differentiate between the concepts of happiness and subjective wellbeing, says Delyse.

Happiness is a short-term state of higher-than-normal positive feelings, and can fluctuate depending on what is happening in the moment.

“You might have won some money in the lottery, or your football team might win a game. But this feeling tends to not stay elevated for lengthy periods—it drops back down.”

Subjective wellbeing, on the other hand, relates more broadly to a general sense of satisfaction or contentment with our life that tends to be more stable over time.

“Our subjective wellbeing doesn’t tend to jump around a lot from day to day. How satisfied you are in life tends to stay fairly stable unless something out of the blue happens.”

It’s for this reason that the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index focuses on the concept of subjective wellbeing, rather than happiness.

However, for ease of understanding, we use the term wellbeing to refer to subjective wellbeing, in line with Australians’ everyday use of the term

Why wellbeing matters

Research from around the world, including the extensive research conducted by Deakin University as part of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, shows that wellbeing matters a lot—for individuals, communities and the nation.

Delyse says the research shows there are numerous health, professional, family and economic benefits that are associated with people having greater wellbeing.

“If you have better wellbeing, you’re more likely to have better physical and mental health, and decreased risk of disease, injury and illness.

People have better immune functioning when their wellbeing is higher—they’re more likely to recover from illness if they do get sick, and they’re more likely to have increased longevity.

“Also, people who have higher subjective wellbeing are more productive in a work context and are also more likely to contribute to their community.”

arrow right Learn more about the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index and how it's measured.

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