ACT residents happier than other regions, new report shows

People living in Canberra and the close surrounding regions are happier, on average, than Australians living in other areas of the country, according to the Living well in the ACT region survey.

In the fourth survey conducted by the University of Canberra’s Health Research Institute, 17.6 per cent of ACT adults reported a level low wellbeing compared to 24.8 per cent of all Australians.

Lead researcher, Professor Jacki Schirmer said this research was particularly interesting, given its ability to compare how the level of wellbeing changed between the first and second COVID-19 lockdowns in the ACT in 2020 and 2021, with surveys collecting data was carried out during both lockdowns.

“While personal wellbeing fell during the first lockdown, it didn’t decline as significantly for most Canberrans during the second,” she said.

“The survey results suggest that while 47.1 per cent of Canberrans told us they found the second lockdown harder to cope with than the first, many actually managed to maintain their wellbeing despite the challenges of lockdown.”

However, it wasn’t all good news for Territory residents, with some groups experiencing a decline in wellbeing, including those living on their own, or in units and apartments.

“People who are carers had a particularly large drop in what was already a lower than average level of wellbeing amongst this group, along with those living with a mental health disability,” Professor Schirmer said.

“This highlights a need to invest in supporting those groups whose wellbeing has been most affected over the last two years.”

The report further indicates a decline in the perception of overall liveability in the region, dropping to 87.8 per cent, from 94.7 percent in the 2020 survey. The decline was greatest amongst younger Canberrans, renters, those living in units and apartments, and those who have lived in Canberra less than five years.

“The findings suggest that among these groups, the effects of COVID-19 on being able to socialise, study and work face to face, as well as participating in community events, has had a significant impact,” she said.

The report measures several wellbeing indicators, including personal wellbeing, access and connectivity, nature connection, health, identity and belonging, living standards, safety and social connection. Survey data contributes to the ACT Government’s ACT Wellbeing Frameworkreporting.

“The ACT Government has been a leader in developing a wellbeing framework that governments can use to inform their decision making,” Professor Schirmer said.

“Other State governments in Australia, and more recently, the Federal Government, are moving towards making wellbeing central to their decision making. This type of data can help governments, and other organisations like community groups, identify where they can best invest in and support those who are struggling the most.”

People living in Canberra and the surrounding regions, including Queanbeyan, Yass and Murrumbateman, are invited to take part in the next phase of this research, by reporting how their wellbeing is going in 2022.

“We may not be in lockdown, but 2022 is certainly bringing its share of challenges. We invite all people living in the Canberra region to take part in the latest round of the Living well survey”, said Prof. Schirmer.

They can do this by taking part in a 10-minute Living well in the ACT region survey here.

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