Wellbeing gap between income groups narrows

  • By Zilla Efrat

The wellbeing gap between Australia’s highest and lowest income groups fell to its lowest level in almost three years in the first quarter of 2022.

According to the NAB Australian Wellbeing Index, it narrowed to just 3.9 points, compared to 8.3 points in the fourth quarter of 2021.

By income, Australians earning $35-50,000 a year rated their wellbeing highest (68.1) usurping the highest income group where wellbeing fell noticeably to 65.6 (from 68.1 in the fourth quarter) as anxiety levels picked up sharply.

According to NAB, wellbeing remains lowest for people earning under $35,000 but it also improved to 61.7 points compared to 59.8 in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Home ownership was a significant differentiator, with people who own and live in their house (68.3) or apartment (65.1) rating their personal wellbeing much higher than those who rent a house (60.1) or apartment (60.0) or have “other” living arrangements (55.2).

While house and apartment owners enjoy broadly similar levels of life satisfaction, life worth and happiness, house owners are far less anxious.

Overall, the NAB Australian Wellbeing Index dipped in the first quarter of 2022 to 64.8 points – from 65.5 points in the fourth quarter of 2021.

That follows a sharp rise in the final quarter of 2021 as Victoria, NSW and the ACT emerged from extended COVID-19 lockdowns.

But NAB economists say the national result masks notable differences by state or territory. Wellbeing climbed steeply in Tasmania – up 5.5 points to 72.3 – with much higher scores for all measures.

Wellbeing also lifted in NSW, up 1.6 pts to 66.3.

Conversely, wellbeing fell heavily (by 5.3 points to 62.3) in WA. WA replaced Victoria to become the state with the lowest wellbeing in the country as anxiety levels climbed sharply.

Higher anxiety was also the main driver of lower wellbeing in South Australia and the Northern Territory, which was down 2.2 points to 63.3, and Victoria, which edged 1.9 points lower to 63.

In Queensland, wellbeing fell slightly (down 0.4 points to 65.9), with lower life satisfaction, life worth and life satisfaction scores offsetting lower anxiety.