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Tue, 4 Jun 2024

Government can help with happiness

Image: Zac Durant

ĢƵ researchers say people’s level of happiness depends mainly on the individual, but government can do some things to make life better.

ĢƵ PhD candidate Phil Lignier led a study examining the life satisfaction of almost 4000 people in Brisbane and Perth.

“We found it was the different characteristics of people living in different areas and their different perceptions, rather than links to social networks, that influence human wellbeing the most.

“Differences between households in the same area were greater overall than differences between areas. But we are definitely not saying that outside forces have no effect on individual wellbeing,” said Mr Lignier.

He said the results showed that social trust, (the expectation that other people will behave in a certain way), social engagement and connection, and a psychological sense of community measured at an individual level have a strong positive influence on individual life satisfaction.

“Conversely, lower life satisfaction is associated with negative individual perceptions about neighbourhood criminality and shabbiness,” said Mr Lignier.

For instance, negative individual perceptions such as safety issues and physical deterioration seem to have a deeper, negative impact on life satisfaction than positive perceptions about a neighbourhood.

“Interestingly, other studies show perceived crime levels are more significant negative contributors to life satisfaction than actual crime levels,” said Mr Lignier.

He said the research confirmed the importance of factors representing social capital - the social networks that influence human wellbeing – and the findings would be useful in informing government social policy in urban areas.

“For instance, the building of urban infrastructure that promotes social access and encourages social activities such as walking paths, community playgrounds and fixing the problems of physical urban deterioration and crime to reinforce the perception of personal safety,” said Mr Lignier.


Phil Lignier
E: phil.lignier@jcu.edu.au