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New Zealand General Social Survey: 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  13 August 2013
Commentary

About the New Zealand General Social Survey

The objectives of the New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) are to:

  • complement other measures of societal progress by providing information on the well-being of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over across a range of aspects of life
  • provide a view of how well-being varies across different groups within the population
  • understand the relationships between different aspects of life and to overall well-being.

NZGSS 2012 is the third survey in the series, which gives an opportunity to measure social change over time. The first survey was carried out in 2008 and the second in 2010.

This is the first release of information from the 2012 survey and provides a glimpse of how the NZGSS achieves its three objectives. We will provide more detailed results in future reports. 

High proportion of New Zealanders feel good about life

In 2012, 87 percent of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their lives overall. According to OECD data, life satisfaction in New Zealand is above the OECD average and similar to Australia, the United States, and Canada.

In 2012, the proportion of satisfied and very satisfied New Zealanders was unchanged from 2010 but was up 1.7 percentage points from 2008.

The population characteristics that have an independent relationship with overall life satisfaction are described below. See the Data quality section for how we determined this independent relationship.

Young and old more likely to be satisfied

While 88 percent of 15–24-year-olds were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives, the proportion was 84 percent for those aged 45–64 years. The proportion increased again for older people – 91 percent of those aged 65 years or more were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives.

This pattern may reflect the pressure from work and family responsibilities that people face as they move through life. Important stages in life, such as raising children, buying a home, entering and leaving the workforce, and the experience of ageing all influence life satisfaction. 

Graph, Overall life satisfaction, by age group, April 2012 to March 2013.  

People in higher income households more likely to be satisfied

While 79 percent of people with an annual household income of $30,000 or less were satisfied or very satisfied with life overall, they were less likely to be satisfied than people with an annual household income of more than $100,000 (91 percent).

Unemployed people least likely to be satisfied

Unemployed people were three times more likely (14 percent) than employed people (4.5 percent) to say they were ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their lives overall, and twice as likely as those not in the labour force (7.5 percent).

Unemployed people were less likely to be satisfied with life than any other population group described in this release.

The proportion of employed people who reported they were satisfied or very satisfied increased 2.2 percentage points between 2008 and 2012.

Graph, Satisfied or very satisfied with life overall, by labour force status, April 2012 to March 2013.

People in one-parent families less likely to be satisfied

People living in one-parent families were less likely to be satisfied with their lives than people living in other family types. Over three-quarters (78 percent) of people living in one-parent-with-children families were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives overall, compared with 89 percent of people living in couple-with/without-children families.

The proportion of people living in a couple-with-children family who were satisfied or very satisfied increased 3.2 percentage points between 2008 and 2012.

People with no qualifications less likely to be satisfied

Overall, New Zealanders with educational qualifications were more likely to be satisfied with their lives than those with no qualifications. More than 9 in 10 (92 percent) people with a qualification at level 7 (bachelor's degree) or above were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives overall, compared with 8 in 10 (81 percent) people with no qualification.

Health, money, relationships, and housing important to well-being

A number of aspects of New Zealanders' lives have a strong independent relationship with overall life satisfaction. The four with the strongest relationship in the NZGSS are:

  • self-rated health status
  • availability of money to meet everyday needs
  • quality of relationships with family and friends
  • housing quality.

The NZGSS measures these four aspects of New Zealanders lives. They are the focus of this release.

A good outcome for each of these aspects of life is captured in the survey when someone reports having:

  • excellent or very good general health
  • more than enough or enough money to meet everyday needs
  • not felt lonely in the last four weeks
  • no major problems with the house or flat in which they live.

See the Data quality section for a further explanation on the analysis used to determine the strength of the relationship between these measures and overall life satisfaction.

Three in five New Zealanders rate their health highly

In 2012, an estimated 60 percent of New Zealanders rated their health as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’. This proportion remained relatively unchanged between 2008 and 2012.

An independent relationship exists between self-rated health and the following population characteristics:

Age – self-rated health satisfaction decreased with increased age. People aged 65+ years were less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good (46 percent) than those aged 15–24 years (68 percent).

Labour force status – employed people were more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good (66 percent) than people who were unemployed (55 percent) or not in the labour force (50 percent).

Income – Self-rated health satisfaction increased with increased household income. Where annual household income was over $100,000, people were more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good (69 percent) than those with annual household income of $30,000 or less (45 percent).

Educational qualifications – people with a qualification at level 7 (bachelor's degree) or above were more likely than those with no qualifications to say their health was excellent or very good (70 percent and 47 percent, respectively).

Ethnicity – Māori and Pacific peoples were less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good (54 and 55 percent, respectively) than Europeans (62 percent) or Asians (60 percent). 

Housing tenure – people in owner-occupied dwellings were more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good (63 percent) than people who lived in rented dwellings (55 percent).

Self-rated health satisfaction didn't change across any of these population characteristics between 2008 and 2012.  

Half of New Zealanders have enough money for everyday things

In 2012, an estimated 52 percent of New Zealanders had ‘more than enough’ or ‘enough’ money to meet their everyday need for things such as accommodation, food, clothing, and other necessities. Results from 2012 are very similar to those from 2008 and 2010.

An independent relationship exists between having enough money and the following population characteristics:

Income – People with an annual household income of more than $100,000 were more likely to have more than enough or enough money (71 percent) than people with an annual household income of $30,000 or less (33 percent).

Age – the proportion of people with more than enough or enough money increased with age. Three in five (59 percent) people aged 65+ years had more than enough or enough money, compared with 43 percent of those aged 15–24 years.

Labour force status – 57 percent of employed people had more than enough or enough money. This was more than double the proportion for unemployed people (23 percent).

Family type – people in families without children were more likely to have more than enough or enough money than people in families with children. About 3 in 5 (62 percent) people who lived in couple-without-children families had more than enough or enough money, compared with 50 percent living in couple-with-children families and 28 percent of one-parent-with-children families.

Educational qualifications – people with no qualifications were less likely than those with an educational qualification to have more than enough or enough money. Two in five (41 percent) people with no qualification had more than enough or enough money, compared with 64 percent of those with a qualification at level 7 (bachelor's degree) or above.

Housing tenure – people living in owner-occupied dwellings were more likely than those in rented dwellings to have more than enough or enough money (50 percent and 36 percent, respectively).

Region – people who live in the Auckland region were least likely to have more than enough or enough money. Less than half (47 percent) of people living in Auckland had more than enough or enough money, compared with 58 percent of people living in either the Wellington or Canterbury regions.

The proportion of people with more than enough or enough money to meet their everyday needs changed significantly between 2008 and 2012 for two groups:

  • employed people – the proportion increased 3.1 percentage points,
  • people not in the labour force – the proportion decreased 4.6 percentage points.

One-third of New Zealanders feel lonely

In 2012, an estimated 31 percent of New Zealanders had felt lonely a little, some, most, or all of the time in the last four weeks. The remaining 69 percent had never felt lonely in the last four weeks.

The proportion of people who felt lonely in 2012 was unchanged from 2010 but was down 2.5 percentage points from 2008.

An independent relationship exists between loneliness and the following population characteristics:

Family type – people living in one-parent families were more likely to have felt lonely (39 percent) than those in a couple-with-children family (30 percent). People in couple-without-children families were the least-likely family type to say they had felt lonely (26 percent).

Age – younger people were more likely to feel lonely than older people. One-third (35 percent) of people aged 15–24 years had felt lonely, compared with 20 percent of people aged 65+ years.

Sex – men were less likely than women to have felt lonely (28 percent and 34 percent, respectively).

Housing tenure – people living in owner-occupied dwellings were less likely to feel lonely (27 percent) than those living in rented dwellings (40 percent).

Region – people living in Wellington were more likely to feel lonely than those living elsewhere in New Zealand (35 percent, compared with 30 percent for Auckland and 32 percent for Canterbury).

Labour force status – unemployed people (40 percent) were more likely to experience loneliness than employed people (30 percent) or those not in the labour force (32 percent).

The proportion of people that had felt lonely in the last four weeks decreased significantly between 2008 and 2012 for four groups:

  • people in couple-with-children families – down 5.0 percentage points,
  • employed people – down 3.6 percentage points,
  • people living in owner-occupied dwellings – down 3.5 percentage points,
  • females – down 3.4 percentage points.

Two in three people have no major housing problems

In 2012, an estimated 67 percent of New Zealanders reported having no major problems with the house or flat they lived in. This is a significant increase on rates from 2008 (63 percent) and 2010 (64 percent). 

An independent relationship exists between having no major housing problems and the following population characteristics:

Income – people with an annual household income of more than $100,000 were more likely to have no major housing problems (72 percent) than those on lower annual household incomes.

Housing tenure – people in owner-occupied dwellings were more likely to have no major housing problems (75 percent) than people living in rented dwellings (50 percent). Renters were the least likely to report no major housing problems across all population groups described in this release.

Migrant status – people born in New Zealand were more likely to have no major housing problems (68 percent) than long-term migrants (64 percent) and recent migrants (59 percent).

Age – people aged 65+ years were more likely to have no major housing problems (83 percent) than younger people. People aged 25–44 years were the least likely to report no major housing problems (57 percent).

The proportion of people reporting no major problems with their house or flat increased significantly between 2008 and 2012 for four groups: 

  • people living in rented dwellings – up 7.1 percentage points.
  • people aged 25–44 years – up 5.1 percentage points,
  • people born in New Zealand – up 4.8 percentage points,
  • people who lived in owner-occupied dwellings – up 3.3 percentage points.

One-fifth of New Zealanders have good outcomes in all four aspects of well-being

Just over one-fifth (21 percent) of New Zealand's adult population had good outcomes in all four aspects of life described in the section above (ie they had excellent or very good health, more than enough or enough money, had never felt lonely, and had no major housing problems). In contrast, 5.4 percent had no good outcomes, and 16 percent had a good outcome in just one aspect.

Graph, Four aspects of life important to well-being, number of good outcomes, April 2012 to March 2013.

While the lack of a good outcome in one aspect of life can create difficulties for people, the experience of lacking good outcomes in multiple aspects of life can have a compounding and persistent effect. This can reinforce barriers to getting ahead and increase the likelihood of other related problems later in life.

High level of overall life satisfaction among people with good outcomes in all four aspects of life

For people who had neither good self-rated health nor enough money for everyday things, and also felt lonely and had housing problems, over a quarter (26 percent) were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their lives overall.

In contrast, for those who had good outcomes in all four aspects of life, almost everyone (98 percent) said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives overall.

Graph, Overall life satisfaction by number of good outcomes reported in four aspects of life, April 2012 to March 2013.

Go to Social well-being in New Zealand: Interactive tool to see how various combinations of these four aspects of life affect overall life satisfaction.

Our interactive tool allows you to select the aspects of life, either singly or in any combination, and see the overall life satisfaction of people who experienced those combinations.

Some population groups more likely to experience good outcomes in all four aspects of life

Some population groups were more likely to experience good outcomes in all four aspects of life that are important to well-being. In particular:

  • people aged 45+ years (25 percent) were more likely than those aged 15–24 years (16 percent)
  • those who identify as European (24 percent) were more likely than those identifying as Māori (12 percent) or Pacific peoples (9 percent)
  • people born in New Zealand (23 percent) were more likely than recent migrants (16 percent)
  • people with a qualification at level 7 (bachelor's degree) or above (25 percent) were more likely than those with no qualification (15 percent)
  • people with an annual household income of more than $100,000 (31 percent) were more likely than those with $30,000 or less (11 percent)
  • employed people (24 percent) were more likely than unemployed people (8 percent)
  • people living in a couple-without-children family (27 percent) were more likely than those in a one-parent-with-children family (10 percent).

For more detailed data see the Excel tables in the ‘Downloads’ box.

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