A new study has revealed what really makes us Aussies happy, and the findings might surprise you.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, a long-term annual study of nearly 20,000 Australians, has revealed the keys to happiness and health for Australians.

Survey participants are asked about everything from their income to their health to their satisfaction with their jobs, partners and neighbours, and the survey has an astonishing 96 per cent response rate.

According to this year’s study, here’s what you need to do to put a smile on your face.

Exercise every day

The survey says working out seven days a week is best for feeling healthy. If you’re a woman, a rigorous regime is even more beneficial. Yikes!

Personally, I love going to the gym and probably go four to five times a week, but seven days a week is a bit much. You do need time for your body to recover; otherwise you’ll burn yourself out.

Be a workaholic

The survey says that to be happy and healthy you need to work more. Huh? In fact, the more people work, the better their health is. Employees can work more than 51 hours in paid work and 81 hours of total work without any detrimental effect on their wellbeing, according to the report.

Please don’t tell my boss that! Too much of something will kill you, that’s what I say.

Don’t retire

The survey suggests retirees (especially men) are likely to have poor health compared to just about everyone else.

So according to the survey, you should work around the clock and never, ever retire. In other words, everything we thought we knew about work/life balance is wrong — no big deal, right?

Don’t smoke

There is bad news for you smokers, as smoking even occasionally will negatively impact your health. Social smokers are not exempt. Well, duh.

Do drink alcohol

According to the report, Australians who consume up to 42 alcoholic drinks per week (that’s six drinks per day on average) are still reporting high levels of short term health and well-being.

That’s a lot of alcohol, though, and it’s probably not doing you much good in the long run.

The Sydney Morning Herald points out that the survey doesn’t take into account the long term effects of drinking like diabetes, high blood pressure, liver and kidney failure, depression and more.

The report’s author, Professor Roger Wilkins, also speculated people in poor health are less likely to drink more, while twenty-somethings could still indulge.

If you’re a man, have a partner

Living with a partner seems to improve the general health and happiness of men, but having kids cancels out the benefits of being in a couple. So, if you’re keeping score, that’s another myth shattered — having kids won’t fix an unhappy relationship.

If you’re a woman, don’t have a partner

Girl Power! Women don’t see any obvious health benefits from being in a relationship, unless they also have children.

Men, have partners that don’t work

According to the study, men are happier when their partners are not in the workforce. In other words, men would prefer to be living in the 1950s.

Get out early, or commit to the long haul

The longer the relationship, the lower the satisfaction — until you hit 20 years or more of marriage.

Don’t be overweight

Well, we all knew this one — people who are overweight (with a BMI greater than 25) are more likely to be in poorer health.

For men, being underweight seems to be worse than being overweight. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but speculate that some men who are extremely lean may have an underlying health condition such as cancer.

Everybody needs good neighbours

With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend. People who get to know their neighbours and spend time with them are happier than people who isolate themselves.

This probably isn’t true if you have the neighbours from hell. What if you lived next door to Shazza and Dazza from Housos?

Go to a private school

Public high school students are twice as likely to be bullied as private school students, and parents of children at independent schools were more satisfied with education at primary and high school levels.

Girls are more likely to be the victims of bullying at school than boys, but they also report higher educational outcomes and prospects than boys.

Go to university

It doesn’t even matter where. Regardless of the institution they obtained it from, a university qualification holder can expect to have their income boosted by up to 42 per cent for men and 32 per cent for women.

Be computer literate

Computer literacy is directly related to earnings. Men with high computer literacy earned up to 25 per cent more than their technophobe counterparts. For women, the difference (12 per cent) between the computer literate and illiterate was slightly less dramatic.

Live in a small town

People surveyed who lived in towns with 1,000 people or less were most satisfied with life, followed by people who lived in bigger regional towns. The report concluded “major cities are the least desirable place to live”.

Well, that’s understandable — would you rather live in a house with a big backyard in a nice quiet neighbourhood or a town house squished into an alleyway on a noisy, busy street? Don’t even get me started on peak hour traffic! Speaking of which…

Live somewhere quiet

LOUD NOISES such as the sound of traffic, aeroplanes, trains and heavy industry can decrease life satisfaction. The sight of messy homes and gardens can also be a downer, especially to neat freaks like me.

I have to admit, I once weeded my next door neighbours front garden when they weren’t home so I wouldn’t have to look at the mess anymore. I wonder if they ever noticed. Oh no, maybe I’m the neighbour from hell?

Places with high rates of burglary and theft also popped up in the study as a life depressant.

Don’t be poor

Sounds like something Joe hockey would say. The study found financial stress is really bad for your health. If you’re living from pay cheque to pay cheque on a small income, you are most likely to be unwell.

On the plus side, the report found that income equality is “remarkably stable” in Australia, with little change in the distribution of household incomes since the survey was first conducted in 2001.

Be a manager or sales worker

These jobs have the best perceived job security. They’re not worried they will lose their jobs, and they’re confident they will find another if they do.

Don’t be a labourer, machinery operator or driver

Apparently, these jobs have the worst perceived job security, as employees fear dismissal the most and are least optimistic about picking up new work.

Change jobs if you want a pay rise

Workers who change jobs experience a pay rise of about 25 per cent over five years. That increase is halved if you stay in your current job.

And finally…


Only if you’re a woman, though. Attributed to our weather (and probably our State of Origin victory, right?), the report observed that woman in the Sunshine State were more satisfied with life than anyone else. Otherwise, there’s surprisingly little difference between the happiness of residents from the other states and territories.

What do you think of the survey results? Would following these tips make you happier? Let us know in the comments below!