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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/02/2011  Final
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Contents >> Social and emotional wellbeing >> Positive wellbeing


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLBEING: POSITIVE WELLBEING
This article is part of a comprehensive series released as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

KEY MESSAGES
  • In 2008, 72% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (adults) reported being a happy person all or most of the time, with rates higher among adults living in remote areas (78%) than non-remote areas (71%).

This topic presents results from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), which provides the most recent data for positive wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The NATSISS positive wellbeing module aimed to identify positive emotional states, such as happiness and vitality, as well as provide a balance with other social and emotional wellbeing concepts such as psychological distress and stressors. It comprised four questions that measured how often in the last four weeks respondents felt calm and peaceful; had been a happy person; felt full of life; and had a lot of energy.

In 2008, the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported feeling happy (72%), calm and peaceful (59%) and full of life (57%) all or most of the time in the four weeks prior to interview, and half (50%) said they had a lot of energy all or most of the time. Rates of positive wellbeing were higher among people living in remote areas than non-remote areas across all four indicators, for example 78% of people in remote areas reported feeling happy all or most of the time compared with 71% in non-remote (graph 1.1).

1.1 POSITIVE WELLBEING BY REMOTENESS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008
chart: positive wellbeing indicators by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, 2008
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.
These estimates are also available for download in the Social and emotional wellbeing datacube


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were more likely than women to report feeling calm or peaceful (63% compared with 56%), full of life (60% compared with 54%) and having a lot of energy (56% compared with 44%) all or most of the time, while similar rates were reported for happiness (73% for males and 72% for females). Overall, positive wellbeing was more prevalent among young people, particularly in regards to feeling full of life and having a lot of energy. Rates of happiness were the most evenly distributed across the broad age groups (graph 1.2).

1.2 POSITIVE WELLBEING(a) BY AGE, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2008
chart: positive wellbeing indicators by age groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, 2008
(a) Feeling experienced all/most of the time.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.
These estimates are also available for download in the Social and emotional wellbeing datacube

Positive wellbeing was more common among those in good health in 2008. Eight in ten (82%) of those who rated their health as excellent/very good reported feeling happy all/most of the time compared with 53% of people in fair/poor health. Likewise, rates of happiness were higher among people with low/moderate levels of psychological distress (86% compared with 45% of those with high/very high levels of distress) and those without a disability or long-term health condition (81% compared with 64% of those with a disability).

Strong family connections and social support also provide a foundation for good social and emotional wellbeing (Endnote 1). For example, in 2008, rates of happiness were higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were able to get support in a time of crisis (74% compared with 64% of those unable to get support) and who could confide in their friends or family (74% compared with 67% of those who could not confide in family/friends). Similarly, people who were able to have a frequent say on community issues were more likely to report feeling happy all/most of the time than those who with little or no input (81% compared with 67%).

Rates of happiness were higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were employed (77% compared with 68% unemployed) and those who had completed school to Year 12 (74% compared with 68% of those who had left school at Year 9 or below). However, it was not significantly associated with household income (75% of those living in relatively high income households reported being a happy person all/most of the time compared with 71% of those living in relatively low income households).

Finally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who reported being happy all/most of the time were less likely than those who were happy only some/little of the time to engage in selected health risk behaviours. In particular, they were less likely to be a current daily smoker (42% compared with 52%) and to have used illicit substances in the last 12 months (19% compared with 26%). However, level of happiness was not significantly associated with chronic alcohol consumption (18% compared with 17%) or with binge drinking (37% compared with 38%).

Given that information on positive wellbeing is not collected in the National Health Survey or the General Social Survey, non-Indigenous comparisons from ABS collections are unavailable.


ENDNOTES

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010, Framework for Measuring Wellbeing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2010, cat. no. 4703.0, ABS, Canberra <www.abs.gov.au>



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