Middle-aged Australians are the least satisfied generation, with many suffering financial stress and relationship breakdowns, new research reveals.
The latest Australian Unity Wellbeing Index survey of 1965 Australians, authored by Deakin University, found a significant disparity between the overall average life satisfaction of those aged between 46 to 55, at 73.3 per cent, compared with 75.5 per cent for ages 26 to 35, and 77.1 per cent for those aged 66 to 75.
The survey also looked at the links between financial control and wellbeing, finding a significant difference in average life satisfaction between those who can pay off their credit card each month (77.1 per cent) and those who can’t (69.4 per cent).
The report’s author, Dr Delyse Hutchinson, senior research fellow at Deakin University’s school of psychology, said the research found those aged 46 to 55 had significant relationship breakdowns.
“What was different about that group is that they were much more likely to have relationship problems, including separation and divorce,” Dr Hutchinson told The New Daily.
‘Struggling to get by’
Dr Hutchinson said the findings revealed that while many middle-aged Australians were travelling well, a significant group of about one in eight, was really struggling to get by, with life satisfaction scores well below normal.
“The survey showed that this group was less in control financially and less likely to have a sense of achievement in life and less likely to feel connected to their community,” she said.
“The middle adult years are no doubt a time of added life pressure, when jobs may be at their most intense, costs of living at their highest and caring responsibilities both for children and potentially ageing parents at their most demanding.”
Financial stress of children
Dr Hutchinson said the noticeable happiness slump of middle-aged Australians was also due to people having children later in life.
“What’s happening is while people are raising children, they’re also looking after their own parents who are perhaps facing health and other kinds of issues,” she said.
Clinical psychologist Jordan Foster agreed, saying there was a financial burden on parents within that age group who had children later in life.
“The cost of having a child is significantly increasing, particularly with middle socio-economic families who are wanting to give their children really fulfilling lives and that adds to even more financial stress,” Ms Foster told The New Daily.
“There’s also so many expectations around schooling, holidays, activities and keeping up with the latest technology, which leads to parents to feel that burden even more,” she said.
Christmas debt warning
Matt Brown, Australian Unity executive general manager of advice, said Australians should understand the consequences of financial strain, particularly during the Christmas period.
“All debt or credit comes at a cost. Some people ignore that cost where they see some instant satisfaction,” Mr Brown said.
“People shouldn’t be afraid of debt if it is in their best long-term interests and [is] well managed, particularly productive debt. But they need to control their debt, not let their debt control them,” he said.