Australian wellbeing hits lowest level since COVID onset

Financial stress at its highest since mid-2016

Australian wellbeing hits lowest level since COVID onset


By Mina Martin

According to the NAB Australian Wellbeing Survey for Q4-2023, Australians’ wellbeing has dropped to its lowest point since COVID began, with the NAB Wellbeing Index indicating a significant downturn across happiness, life satisfaction, life worth, and anxiety measures.

Rising financial stress and its contributors

Household financial stress has escalated to its highest level since mid-2016, with one in three Australians feeling financially worse off than a year ago. This rise in concern is notably high across the board, reaching a survey peak.

The NAB Household Financial Stress Index showed an uptick in financial stress, especially regarding non-essential expenses, major household items, and housing costs, with retirement financing being the largest stress contributor.

Financial stress increased across most demographics and regions, except among those aged 65 and over. Women reported higher financial stress than men, with notable increases in concern over savings and debt.

Inequality in wellbeing exposed

The survey highlighted stark disparities in wellbeing, with the lowest scores among the unemployed, renters, young adults, particularly women, and Victorians. In contrast, wellbeing scores were highest among older Australians, particularly men over 65, high-income earners, and those residing in rural Western Australia.

The complex relationship between income and wellbeing

NAB’s research uncovered a nuanced relationship between income and emotional wellbeing, revealing that while higher incomes generally correlate with improved wellbeing, the $50-75,000 income group reported unexpectedly high levels of wellbeing.

Homeownership boosts wellbeing

Clear links emerge between homeownership and wellbeing, with homeowners reporting significantly higher wellbeing than renters, and those owning homes outright experiencing an even greater wellbeing boost.

Australians’ satisfaction with life aspects

For the first time, the survey asked Australians to rate their satisfaction with various life aspects, finding the highest satisfaction with education and personal safety, but the lowest with the economy and government performance.

Concerns over income and debt intensify

Australians’ concerns over income have reached a new high, with expectations for income increases dipping significantly. Debt-related stress also hit a survey peak, especially for those with payday loans and mortgages.

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