Key messages

  • In July 2011 the United Nations General Assembly passed an historic resolution inviting its member countries to measure the wellbeing of their people and to use this to guide their public policies.
  • Wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person's physical, mental, emotional and social health and reflects how you feel about yourself and your life. 
  • Subjective wellbeing is the scientific term for happiness and decades of work have accumulated to show that it can be measured in population surveys and the measures are valid, robust, and reliable.
  • People with high subjective wellbeing are mentally and physically healthier, more productive, more cooperative, more pro-social and charitable, have greater coping abilities, and live 4 to 10 years longer than people with low subjective wellbeing. 
  • For the first time, the subjective wellbeing of a representative cohort of adults 18 years and older was measured in Victoria in the 2012 Victorian Population Health Survey.
  • The purpose of this report is to describe the subjective wellbeing of Victorians and to identify and understand the drivers of subjective wellbeing to enable evidence-based policy-making.

A public health model of the social determinants of health provided the theoretical framework for this report. Essentially, the model predicts that the underlying social determinants of health impact on the health of individuals both directly and indirectly via the healthcare system and disease-inducing behaviours.

After describing the subjective wellbeing of randomly selected adults across Victoria, the report goes on to explore the underlying drivers of subjective wellbeing in Victoria. The social determinants investigated included the socioeconomic determinants, psychosocial risk factors, and social capital. The disease-inducing behaviours investigated included smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, overweight and obesity, and diet.

The use of various healthcare services as indicators of availability, access and healthcare-seeking behaviour were investigated. The health outcomes investigated included self-reported health status, depression and anxiety, cancer, osteoporosis, asthma, dental health, and sleep.  

The final part of the report discusses the strengths and limitations of the study, the policy implications, the conclusions reached, and suggestions for the way forward. This is done in the context of the wider literature using the highest level of evidence available at the time. 

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