FEATURE ARTICLE 2: GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEY - WESTERN AUSTRALIAN SUMMARY
There are many, often interrelated, aspects of life important to human wellbeing such as good health, good family relationships and engagement with wider social networks, freedom from financial stress, feeling safe and secure and having access to suitable transport and information technology. In 2006, the ABS conducted its second General Social Survey (GSS) (first in 2002), a multi-dimensional survey that provides valuable information on all these aspects of life for Australian adults (persons aged 18 years and over). This article summarises the results from the 2006 GSS for the Western Australian adult population, making comparisons between people of different age groups and household compositions.
The article also identifies where there have been changes in circumstances from the 2002 GSS for people living in Western Australia. These include:
- households experiencing less financial difficulties;
- a higher proportion of people reporting their health to be excellent or very good;
- an increase in the incidence of people reporting one or more personal stressors;
- a slightly higher proportion of people reporting they have been the victim of crime; and
- lower levels of participation in sport and physical recreation activities.
GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEY: SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS
|Personal characteristic |
|Family and community(a) |
|Attendance at culture and leisure venues |
|Sport and physical recreation activities |
|Can easily get to places needed |
|Experienced a personal stressor |
|Self assessed health status excellent or very good |
|Household characteristic |
|Unable to raise $2,000 in week for something important |
|Had at least one cash flow problem |
|Took at least one dissaving action |
|No consumer debt |
|Number of persons |
|All persons aged 18 years or over ('000) |
|(a) Persons who had weekly contact with family or friends, could ask for small favours and able to get support in times of crisis. |
|(b) Victim of actual or threatened physical violence or victim of actual or attempted break-in. |
|ABS data available on request, 2002 and 2006 General Social Surveys. |
It is generally accepted that family members living together provide each other with economic and emotional support, and that extended family and community networks are also important sources of support and contributors to people's wellbeing. Many people provide support to relatives living elsewhere, such as grandparents caring for grandchildren and children caring for elderly parents. Additionally, the daily interactions that people have with others in the community help build relationships, which provide greater access to sources of information and support in times of need.
People are described as having family and community support if they:
Of the 1,490,000 Western Australian resident adults (aged 18 years and over) covered by the 2006 GSS, 88% indicated that they had access to family and community support. High proportions (above 85%) were reported for both men and women, all age groups and across differing family and household types (including lone parents, couple families with or without dependents and people living alone).
- had contact with family and friends living outside their household in the week prior to interview;
- could ask for small favours; and
- were able to receive support in a time of crisis from people living outside their household.
CONTACT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Almost all (97%) Western Australian adults had some form of contact with family and friends living outside the household in the week prior to the survey. Face to face contact with family and friends living outside the household on a weekly basis was reported by 82% of adults and an even higher proportion by other means of contact, such as telephone, mail and e-mail (94%).
Over the three month period prior to the survey, most Western Australian adults used a variety of methods to contact family and friends not living with them. A fixed telephone was the most common method (92%), followed by mobile phone calls (76%). More than half the adult population also used Short Message Service (SMS) (58%) or Internet communication, such as e-mail or chat rooms (53%) to keep in contact.
SOURCES OF SUPPORT
People may seek support from a variety of sources. Formal support is available through a range of government, professional and community organisations and a considerable amount of support is provided informally through people's networks of family, friends and work colleagues.
In 2006, 93% of adults in Western Australia reported they could ask people outside their household for small favours, such as looking after pets, collecting mail or borrowing equipment. Similarly, 94% felt they could obtain support in a time of crisis from people not living with them.
Similar to results from the 2002 GSS, 82% of Western Australian adults reported they could call on family members not living with them for support in a time of crisis in 2006. However, a lower proportion reported being able to call on many other sources of support at such times in 2006 than 2002. This was particularly evident in the case of:
- friends (65% compared to 74%);
- community, charity and religious organisations (12% compared to 18%);
- local councils or other government services (5% compared to 11%); and
- health, legal or financial professionals (10% compared to 18%).
SELECTED SOURCES OF SUPPORT IN TIME OF CRISIS, Western Australia
SUPPORT TO RELATIVES LIVING OUTSIDE THE HOUSEHOLD
Family networks and support roles often extend beyond the household. Three important groups living outside the household to whom support is often provided are children aged under 18 years, children 18-24 years and other relatives.
CHILDREN AGED UNDER 18 YEARS
With increasing numbers of parents not living with their natural children, there is considerable interest in how relationships are maintained and the level of support provided to children in such situations. In 2006, 53,000 people in Western Australia stated that they had children aged 0-17 years who no longer lived with them. Most of these absent parents provided some form support for these children (84%). Over half (57%) of all absent parents of children in this age group provided Child Support Payments. Other frequently reported types of support included, providing or paying for clothing (46%), providing them with pocket money or an allowance (45%) and driving them places (42%).
CHILDREN AGED 18-24 YEARS
The age group 18-24 years is traditionally one where children move from being dependent on their parents to living independently. While some of these children live with parents or in the care of other families, many are living on their own or in group households. Material support from parents is often important in helping these young people to establish their independence.
In 2006, there were 135,000 people in Western Australia who had children aged 18-24 years who did not live with them. Almost two-thirds (62%) of people in this situation had provided support to these children in the previous year.
Just under a third (29%) of parents who had children 18-24 years living elsewhere provided them with assistance to pay bills or meet other debts. Other frequently reported forms of support were letting them borrow a car (23%), providing money for housing costs (23%), providing or paying for big cost items (such as cars, computers, housing appliances etc.) (22%) and driving them to places (22%).
In 2006, 30% of Western Australian adults were providing support to a relative (other than their own children aged under 25 years) who lived outside the household. The most common types of support provided were driving them places (15%), providing use of a car (8%), giving money to help pay bills or meet debts (6%) and giving spending money (6%). Persons aged 55-64 years (36%) were the most likely age group to be providing support to their relatives and those aged 18-24 years (21%) the least likely.
NETWORK TYPE AND LEVEL OF TRUST
The 2006 GSS measured the diversity of people's social network of friends, in terms of similarity of age, educational background and ethnicity. For two-thirds (65%) of Western Australian adults, all or most of their friends were of a similar age to themselves. Young people aged 18-24 years (74%) were most likely to have friends of the same age, while those aged 75 years and over (57%) were least likely to do so.
Just over half (55%) of Western Australian adults indicated that all or most of their friends had a similar education background to themselves. A higher proportion (73%) reported having all or most of their friends from a similar ethnic background. There were no significant differences between age groups in terms of educational background or ethnicity of friends.
The 2006 GSS also assessed the level of trust respondents have in other people, including people in general and people associated with specific occupations and institutions. Just over half (56%) the Western Australian respondents felt that most people could be trusted. Higher levels of trust were indicated for people's own doctors (88%), local police (75%), hospitals (69%) and other police (66%). There were no significant differences in levels of trust between males and females. Similarly, levels of trust in general and for the selected professions and institutions were much the same for Western Australia and Australia.
Many people provide support to the wider community by undertaking voluntary work for organisations. In 2006, 564,000 or 36% of Western Australian adults had done so in the previous 12 months which was similar to the national rate (34%). A higher proportion of Western Australian women (39%) had undertaken voluntary work than men (34%). Rates were also higher for those aged 35-44 years (47%) and 45-54 years (41%) than for other age groups.
The rate of volunteering also varied lifecycle group. Adults in couple (48%) and one parent families (49%) with dependent children (under 15 years) were more likely to have undertaken voluntary work than those in other household types.
VOLUNTEERING BY HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION, Western Australia - 2006
Overall, the most common organisations for whom voluntary work was done in Western Australia were sport and physical recreation (16%), education, training and youth development (13%), religious (7%) and welfare and community (6%). Couples with dependent children (26%) and one parent families (35%) were the most likely to volunteer for education and training organisations.
Support for the community can also be provided by the financial donations people make to organisations. In 2006, 81% of Western Australian adults had donated money in the previous 12 months. International aid (29%), community and welfare services (27%) and health organisations (25%) were the most commonly reported recipients of donations. People in Western Australia were more likely to have donated money to International aid, environment and animal welfare groups than all Australians.
Participation in civic or political organisations is another measure of community involvement. In 2006, 20% of Western Australian adults had participated in one or more organisations of this kind in the previous 12 months. Participation in civic or political groups was higher for males (24%) than females (17%). Men aged 50-64 years (31%) reported higher civic and political participation, compared to all Western Australians.
Personal stressors are events or conditions which adversely impact on an individual's life or the collective lives of families or close friends. A stressor may impact on an individual through their own direct experience, such as inability to get a job or serious illness, or indirectly through a family member's illness or the divorce or separation of parents. In some instances stressors may have an adverse affect on the capacity of individuals to live satisfying or productive lives, and can affect family functioning.
In 2006, almost two-thirds (63%) of Western Australian adults experienced at least one potentially stressful situation or event in the previous 12 months. This was a slightly higher proportion than recorded nationally (59%), but similar to the state proportion recorded in 2002. There was little difference in the proportion of men and women in Western Australia who had experienced a personal stressor, whereas those aged 45-54 years (70%) were more likely, and those aged 65-74 years (48%) less likely, to have experienced a stressor than people in other age groups.
Serious illness (24%) and death (22%) were the two most commonly reported stressors by Western Australian adults. Mental illness (12%), inability to get a job (11%) and divorce or separation (11%) were the next most likely stressors. Persons aged under 30 years (21%) were more likely to have indicated a stressor due to the inability to get a job than those in other ages groups.
With the exception of gambling problems, the rate at which specific personal stressors were reported was similar for Western Australia and Australia. In the case of gambling, 1.5% (22,600 persons) of Western Australian adults reported this as a personal stressor compared to 3.2% (485,000 persons) at the national level.
CRIME AND SAFETY
VICTIMS OF CRIME
Being a victim of crime can impact on the physical, emotional and financial wellbeing of individuals and families. Perceptions and fear of crime can also decrease feelings of personal safety and reduce the level of trust in the community. This can lead people to modify their behaviour and may restrict their ability to freely enjoy or participate in the community.
In 2006, 24% of Western Australian adults indicated that they had been a victim of physical or threatened violence or an attempted or actual break-in in the last year. This was higher than the rate recorded nationally (18%). The rate at which people indicated being a victim of physical or threatened violence was slightly higher for Western Australia (13%) than Australia (11%), while the proportion in the state (15%) indicating they had been a victim of an attempted or actual break-in was well above that recorded nationally (9%).
Victimisation rates varied according to living arrangements and age. People aged 18-34 years living alone (43%) or in a couple only family (38%), and single parent families with dependent children (37%), were more likely than those in other living arrangements to have indicated being a victim of either an attempted or actual break-in or of threatened or physical violence in the previous 12 months.
VICTIM OF CRIME(a), Selected household type - 2006
The likelihood of Western Australian adults being a victim of threatened or physical violence generally decreased with age. In 2006, 25% of 18-24 year olds indicated they had been a victim compared to 5% of those aged 55 years and over. High victimisation rates were particularly evident among young men, with just over one-third (34%) of 18-24 year olds indicating they had been a victim of physical or threatened violence in the previous year. This was much higher than the equivalent rate recorded in 2002 (16%).
FEELINGS OF SAFETY
In 2006, most (82%) Western Australian adults indicated that they felt safe or very safe when at home alone after dark. However, 8.5% (127,000 persons) indicated that they felt unsafe or very unsafe when home alone after dark, a slightly higher proportion than the national average (6.7%). Women (14%) were much more likely to feel unsafe or very unsafe after dark than men (3%). Notably, one-quarter of Western Australian women aged 18-24 years, reported that they felt unsafe or very unsafe when home alone after dark.
FEELS SAFE OR VERY SAFE AT HOME ALONE AFTER DARK, Western Australia - 2006
Less than half (46%) the adult population of Western Australia indicated that they felt safe or very safe walking alone in their local street after dark, a similar proportion to the national average (48%). Men (67%) were more likely to feel safe or very safe than women (24%). Feelings of safety for females generally increased with age, with women aged 18-24 years (57%) most likely to feel unsafe or very unsafe when walking at night alone, and those aged 75 years and over (19%) least likely to do so.
Another potential barrier to interaction within the community can be lack of access to appropriate forms of transport. This can limit choices and opportunities to access goods and services, gain employment, participate in cultural, sporting or community activities, and may restrict contact with family or friends.
In 2006, 88% of adults in Western Australia were able to easily get to places when needed. A similar proportion of men (89%) and women (87%) found it easy to get to places. People aged 75 year or over were least likely to indicate being able to easily get to the places they needed (70%).
Western Australian adults were more likely to have access to a motor vehicle to drive than all Australians of the same age (91% compared to 86%). In Western Australia, a higher proportion of men (93%) than women (89%) had access to a motor vehicle. Again persons aged 75 years and over were least likely to have access to a motor vehicle to drive (68%).
Western Australians use of computers and the Internet increased substantially between 2002 and 2006. Over this period, the proportion of adults having used a computer at home in the 12 months prior to interview increased from 59% to 73%. Similarly, the proportion who had accessed the Internet at home grew from 45% to 65%. Increases were evident for males and females and across all age groups. Notably, for those aged 65 years and over, use of a computer at home nearly doubled from 20% to 39%, and accessing the Internet more than doubled from 14% to 32%. Despite these large increases, those aged 65 years and over remained less likely than younger age groups to have used these forms of information technology at home.
INTERNET ACCESS, Western Australia
In 2006, a similar proportion of Western Australian men and women reported having used a computer (75% and 71% respectively) and accessed the Internet at home (66% and 63% respectively).
The financial stress indicators collected in the GSS can provide insights into the economic wellbeing of Western Australian adults. Overall, comparing results for Western Australia from 2002 and 2006 indicates:
In 2006, Western Australian lone parents with dependent children (39%) were more likely to have had a cash flow problem in the previous year, than people in other living arrangements. People aged 18-34 years who lived alone (28%) and lone parents with dependent children (28%) were most likely to be unable to raise emergency money (28%). Those aged under 35 years who lived alone (45%) were also more likely to have taken a dissaving action, than all Western Australians. Couple only households where the person selected for interview was under 35 years (63%) were most likely to have a consumer debt.
- fewer adults reported having one or more cash flow problem in the 12 months prior to interview in 2006 (17%) than in 2002 (22%);
- a fall in the proportion of adults reporting they would be unable to raise $2,000 in an emergency, from 13% in 2002 to 10% in 2006;
- a higher proportion of people reported that they had no consumer debt in 2006 (54%) than in 2002 (48%); and
- around one in five adults reported taking a dissaving action (such as reducing home loan repayments, selling assets or taking out personal loans) in 2002 and 2006.
CULTURE AND LEISURE
In 2006, 1,361,000 (91%) Western Australian adults had attended cultural venues and events in the 12 months prior to interview. A similar proportion of Western Australian men and women had attended a cultural venue or event, but there were differences between age groups. Nearly all those aged under 30 years (98%) had attended a cultural venue and events compared to 77% of people aged 65 years and over. The most commonly attended venues and events were cinemas (73%), libraries (48%) and botanic gardens (43%).
More than half (56%) of adults in Western Australia had attended a sporting event in the 12 months prior to interview in 2006. However, there were differences in attendance for males and females and across age groups. Males (64%) were more likely to have attended sporting events than females (49%) as were persons aged under 30 years (74%) than those from older age groups.
Participation in sport or physical recreation among Western Australian adults was 70% in 2006, higher than the national rate of 62%. Males and females in Western Australia participated at similar rates (71% and 69%). However, participation remained closely linked with age, peaking at 78% for those aged under 30 years, and declining to 58% for people aged over 65 years.
- General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0).
- General Social Survey: Western Australia (cat. no. 4159.5.55.001).
- General Social Survey: User Guide, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0.55.002).
- Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).