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Overall life satisfaction


The proportion of the population aged 15 years and over who reported that they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their life overall, in the New Zealand General Social Survey.


Overall life satisfaction is a summary indicator of subjective wellbeing. A number of circumstances may influence overall life satisfaction, such as health, education, employment, income, personality, family and social connections, civil and human rights, levels of trust and altruism, and opportunities for democratic participation.117

Current level

In 2008, 86 percent of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over said they were satisfied with their life overall. Almost one-third (32 percent) were very satisfied, and just over half (54 percent) were satisfied.

Age and sex differences

While the proportion of people very satisfied or satisfied with life overall was high across all age groups, people aged 65 years and over (91 percent) were more likely to be very satisfied or satisfied than people aged 45–64 years (83 percent).

Males (85 percent) and females (86 percent) reported very similar rates of overall life satisfaction. Among people aged 25–44 years, females were more likely than males to be very satisfied with their life overall (32 percent and 26 percent, respectively).

Figure LS1.1 Proportion of people satisfied with their life overall, by age group and sex, 2008

Figure LS1.1 Proportion of people satisfied with their life overall, by age group and sex, 2008

Source: Statistics New Zealand, New Zealand General Social Survey

Ethnic differences

While at least four in every five people in each major ethnic group were very satisfied or satisfied with life overall, Asian people, Pacific people and Māori were significantly less likely to be very satisfied than other (mainly European) people.

Table LS1.1 Proportion (%) of people satisfied with their life overall, by ethnic group, 2008

  European/MELAA/Other Māori Pacific peoples Asian Total
Very satisfied 34.4 28.3 25.2 22.2 32.2
Satisfied 52.5 53.2 55.0 61.9 53.6
Total satisfied 86.9 81.5 80.3 84.1 85.8

Source: Statistics New Zealand, New Zealand General Social Survey
Notes: (1) MELAA stands for Middle Eastern, Latin American and African. (2) Other includes the category “New Zealander”.

Family type differences

Across family types, people living in one-parent families were the least likely (74 percent) to be very satisfied or satisfied with life overall, followed by those not living in a family (81 percent). People not living in a family includes people living alone or with flatmates. The rates for couples with at least one dependent child (87 percent) and couples without children (90 percent) were significantly higher than those for both other family types.

Socio-economic differences

There were significant differences in overall life satisfaction between the unemployed (67 percent) and the employed (87 percent), and between people living in rented housing (79 percent) and those living in owned housing (88 percent). People with no qualifications (81 percent) had significantly lower levels of overall life satisfaction than those with a qualification: Levels 1–4 certificate, 86 percent; Levels 5–6 diploma, 87 percent; bachelor’s degree or a higher qualification, 90 percent.

People with personal incomes of $70,000 or more reported the highest levels of satisfaction with life overall (93 percent). This was significantly higher than the levels for people in the lower personal income bands of $30,000 or less (84 percent) and $30,001–$70,000 (86 percent).

Regional differences

Across the regions, people reported very similar levels of overall life satisfaction, ranging from 83 percent in Northland to 87 percent in Wellington and Canterbury.

International comparison

Information on life satisfaction in OECD countries is available from the 2006 Gallup World Poll. The measure is a country’s average score on an 11-point scale from 0–10 (with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest levels of satisfaction), derived from individual respondents’ scores. Denmark topped the list with a score of 8.0. In the Gallup World Poll, New Zealand ranked sixth equal (with Australia and Canada) with a score of 7.4. This was above the median of 6.9 for 30 OECD countries. New Zealand’s score was slightly above the average scores of the United States (7.3) and the United Kingdom (7.0), and well above that of Ireland (6.0). High life satisfaction is associated with higher national income and lower inequality. In high income countries (including Australia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand), life satisfaction is higher at older ages.

» View technical details about the overall life satisfaction indicator