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Life changes experienced in past 12 months

This chapter describes the major life changes that respondents experienced in the last 12 months, including the change that most affected them. It also looks at whether people perceived the change in positive or negative terms.

Most New Zealanders experienced major change

Change is a frequent occurrence in New Zealanders’ lives. In 2014, almost 7 in 10 (69 percent) people aged 15 years and over experienced at least one major change that had a significant impact on their lives in the last 12 months. Regardless of how old they were, the proportion who experienced major life change was similar.

Figure 1

Image, People who experienced at least one major life change in last 12 months.
Almost half (47 percent) of respondents experienced more than one major life change in the past 12 months. More frequent change was more common among young people than older people. For example, those aged 15–24 were more than twice as likely to report three or more major changes than people aged 65 and over (36 percent and 16 percent, respectively).

Changes in health and finances most common

Two in five (42 percent) respondents experienced a change in health (either their own health, or the health of someone close) in the last 12 months. The next most common life change was a change in finances, affecting 29 percent of people.

Figure 2
Image, People who experienced at least one major life change in last 12 months.
People aged 45–64 (44 percent) and those aged 65 years and over (48 percent) were more likely to have experienced health changes than those aged 15–24 (37 percent). This reflects the general decline in physical health as we age.

Younger people (aged 15–44 years) were more likely than those at older ages to experience changes in their finances, personal or family relationships, living arrangements, and employment. This is not surprising given the many and varied transitions that occur at younger ages, such as leaving the family home, starting work, and starting relationships.

Change of greatest impact varies by life stage

Respondents who experienced more than one major life change were asked to identify the change that most affected them. This report will now focus on that one change, which varies considerably by life stage.

Figure 3 shows that a change in health was most commonly identified as having the greatest impact, at 31 percent.

While the death of someone close was experienced less often than most other reported changes, it had the greatest impact on people’s lives, after health changes. A change in finances was the second most common change experienced in the last 12 months, but ranked fifth in terms of impact.

Among young people (aged 15–24), the changes of greatest impact were health, death of someone close to them, living arrangements, personal or family relationships, and employment. While the impact of health changes increase with advancing age, the impact of changes in personal or family relationships and living arrangements decrease.

For those of prime working age (25–44 years), changes in health had the greatest impact, followed by changes in personal or family relationships, finances, living arrangements, and the death of someone close to them.

Figure 3
Image, Life change of greatest impact.

More types of change perceived as negative rather than positive

Changes in different life situations can be perceived positively or negatively. In 2014, 2 in 5 (45 percent) New Zealanders perceived the change as mostly negative. Only 33 percent perceived the change as mostly positive. The other 22 percent viewed the change more neutrally. Age had minimal effect on perception, although prime working age people were more likely to view change positively than middle-aged and older people.

Some life changes were perceived as mostly negative, including health changes (58 percent) and the death of someone close to them (57 percent). However, older people were less likely to see a death as negative, with 50 percent viewing it that way compared with 71 percent of young people. Older people were also less likely than younger people to see changes in employment and living arrangements as negative. But they were more likely to see changes in finances as negative, with 59 percent viewing it this way compared with 39 percent of young people.

The changes that were perceived more positively than others were changes in living arrangements (61 percent), and employment (58 percent).

Figure 4
Image, Perception of different life changes.


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