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General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia

Provides data on the social characteristics, wellbeing and social experiences of people in Australia

Reference period
2019

Statistics in this publication predate COVID-19.

Wellbeing

Key statistics

  • Overall life satisfaction of Australians aged 15 years and over was 7.5 out of 10 in 2019, compared to 7.6 in 2014.
  • More than half of Australians (56.3%) experienced at least one personal stressor in the last 12 months. 
  • Almost two in five Australians (39.5%) reported 'Always' or 'Often' feeling rushed for time. 

Life satisfaction

  • Overall life satisfaction is a summary measure of subjective wellbeing against a scale ranging from 0 to 10, where 0 means 'not at all satisfied' and 10 means 'completely satisfied'.
  • In 2019, on average, Australians rated their overall life satisfaction as 7.5, compared to 7.6 in 2014 (Table 2).
  • Average life satisfaction was relatively low for people with a mental health condition (6.4), people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual (6.8) and people with disability (7.0).
  • People aged 70 years or over reported an overall life satisfaction of 7.8 while those aged 40 to 54 years reported 7.2.

Personal stressors and feeling rushed for time

  • More than half of Australians (56.3%) experienced at least one personal stressor in the last 12 months. This was significantly higher for people with a mental health condition compared to those who do not have a mental health condition (81.0% and 52.8%). People with disability were also more likely to have experienced at least one personal stressor compared to those with no disability (69.6% and 50.8%) (Table 4).
  • Nearly 8 million Australians (39.5%) reported 'Always' or 'Often' feeling rushed for time. Those aged 40-54 years are most likely to report feeling rushed for time (56.2%) (Table 3).
  • More females (43.1%) reported 'Always' or 'Often' feeling rushed for time than males (35.8%). Females aged 15-24 years are more likely than males aged 15-24 to report feeling rushed for time (55.7% compared to 37.1%) (Graph 1).
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Social experiences

Key statistics

  • Since 2010, there has been a general decrease in the proportion of people who are involved in Social groups, Community support groups, and Civic and political groups.
  • Just over two-thirds (67.8%) of Australians had face to face contact with family or friends living outside their household at least once a week.
  • Most Australians reported being able to get support in times of crisis from persons living outside their household (94.4%). 
  • One in six Australians experienced some form of discrimination in the previous 12 months (17.4%).
  • One in three (31.7%) people with a mental health condition and just over one in five (22.1%) people with disability experienced some form of discrimination.
  • People who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were more likely to report experiencing discrimination than people who identified as heterosexual (33.5% compared to 16.9%).
  • Just over one in ten Australians (11.0%) have been without a permanent place to live at some time in their lives.
  • In 2019, nearly one in five households (19.5%) were unable to raise $2,000 within a week for something important.

Involvement in Social, Community support, and Civic and political groups

  • Since 2010, there has been a general decrease in the proportion of people aged 18 years and over who are involved in Social groups, Community support groups, and Civic and political groups (Table 1).
  • Half (50.0%) of all Australians were involved in Social groups and one quarter (25.0%) were involved in Community support groups in 2019.
  • Participation in Civic and political groups decreased from almost one in five (18.6%) in 2006 to less than one in ten in 2019 (9.4%) (Graph 2).
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Family and community support

  • Just over two-thirds (67.8%) of Australians had face to face contact with family or friends living outside their household at least once a week. Females were more likely than males to have contact (71.6% compared to 63.9%) (Table 3). 
  • Recent migrants and temporary residents were less likely than people born in Australia to have face to face contact with family or friends living outside the household at least once a week during the 3 months prior to the survey (53.7% compared to 70.3%) (Table 5). 
  • Most Australians reported being able to get support in times of crisis from persons living outside their household (94.4%). People with a mental health condition were less likely than those who do not have a mental health condition to report being able to get support in a time of crisis (88.0% and 95.1%) (Table 4). 
  • Most Australians also said they had family or friends living outside their house to confide in (89.3%). Recent migrants and temporary residents were less likely than people born in Australia to have someone outside the household to confide in (83.0% compared to 91.2%) (Table 5).

Cultural tolerance and discrimination

  • Generally, people agreed that it is 'a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different cultures' (80.8%). Australians aged 70 years or over were less likely than those aged 15 to 24 years to agree with this statement (74.5% compared to 83.9%) (Table 3). 
  • One in six Australians experienced some form of discrimination in the previous 12 months (17.4%). Nearly a third (31.7%) of people with a mental health condition reported having experienced some form of discrimination, compared to 15.5% of people without a mental health condition. People with disability were also more likely to report having experienced discrimination compared to those with no disability (22.1% and 15.5%) (Table 4).

Trust

  • More than half (55.3%) of Australians agree that most people can be trusted. Persons aged 70 years and over were more likely to agree that most people can be trusted compared to persons aged 15 to 24 years (61.2% and 49.5%) (Table 3).
  • More than three quarters (76.8%) of Australians agree that police can be trusted, while 57.6% agree that the justice system can be trusted.

Sexual orientation

  • In the GSS respondents are asked which of the following best describes how they think of themselves: straight (heterosexual); gay or lesbian; bisexual; or other sexual orientation. For the purpose of this publication, data for people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or another sexual orientation is combined into 'gay, lesbian or bisexual'.
  • Social experiences by sexual orientation are presented in Table 6.
  • A little over half a million, or 2.7% of Australians, identified as being gay, lesbian or bisexual in 2019.
  • People who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were more likely to report experiencing discrimination than people who identified as heterosexual (33.5% compared to 16.9%).
  • People who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were less likely to be able to get support in times of crisis from persons living outside the household than people who identified as heterosexual (76.2% compared to 95.1%) and less likely to have family or friends living outside the household to confide in (76.8% compared to 89.8%).

Permanent place to live

  • GSS provides information about people who have been without a permanent place to live in the past, but who are now usual residents of private dwellings.
  • In 2019, 2.2 million Australians were without a permanent place to at some time in their lives (Table 12). Of these people, 50.3% were male and 48.0% were female.
  • In situations where people found themselves without a permanent place to live, 75.1% of people had stayed with friends or relatives and 34.0% had slept rough.
  • The most common reason for the most recent experience of being without a permanent place to live was due to relationship breakdowns, affecting about 1 million people (48.2% of people who have ever been without a permanent place to live). Other reasons included housing being too expensive and unemployment (16.2% and 13.9%). 

Financial stress

  • The GSS measures financial stress experienced by households through a range of indicators including: the inability to raise $2,000 for something important, whether a household has experienced a cash flow problem in the last 12 months and whether a household took a dissaving action in the last 12 months.
  • In 2019, nearly one in five households (19.5%) were unable to raise $2,000 within a week for something important. There were also more households in 2019 that experienced a cash flow problem in the previous 12 months compared to 2014 (21.8% compared to 19.3%) (Table 14).
  • When compared with 'Couple families with dependant children', 'One parent families with dependant children' are more likely to report that a government pension and allowances was the main source of income in the household (31.1% compared to 4.4%) and less able to save money most weeks (20.0% compared to 45.1%). 'One parent families with dependant children' are also less likely to own their own home with a mortgage than 'Couple families with dependant children' (23.7% and 58.4%) (Table 13).

Voluntary work and unpaid work/support

Key statistics

  • Almost one third (29.5%) of Australians aged 15 years and over participated in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation in 2019.
  • Unpaid voluntary work through an organisation contributed 596.2 million hours to the community in the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • The rate of volunteering through an organisation for persons aged 18 years and over has declined from 36.2% in 2010 to 28.8% in 2019.
  • Just over half (51.5%) of Australians aged 15 years and over provided unpaid work/support to persons living outside their household in the four weeks prior to the survey in 2019.

Unpaid voluntary work through an organisation

  • Almost one third (29.5%) of the Australian population aged 15 years and over participated in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation in the 12 months prior to the survey. Volunteering rates for males and females were similar at 30.7% and 28.5 % (Table 3).
  • The total rate of volunteering through an organisation has declined since 2010. For persons aged 18 years and over, the volunteering rate has declined from 36.2% in 2010, to 30.9% in 2014 and to 28.8% in 2019. The decline has been most evident for females, whose rate decreased from 33.0% in 2014 to 28.1% in 2019 (Table 1).
  • Unpaid voluntary work through an organisation contributed 596.2 million hours to the community in the 12 months prior to the survey (Table 9). This is a 20% decrease in the total number of volunteering hours from 2014 (743.3 million hours). 
  • People aged 40-54 years were more likely to have participated in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation (36.2%) than those those aged 70 years or more (24.5%) (Table 7 and Graph 3).
  • The most common types of organisations for which people volunteered were those relating to sport and physical recreation (39.1% of volunteers), religious groups (23.3%) and education and training (21.8%) (Table 8). 
  • Women were more likely to report having participated in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation for more than 10 years (43.0% of female volunteers compared to 32.9% of males) (Table 8).
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Informal volunteering

  • GSS 2019 outputs data on informal volunteering for the first time. Informal volunteering is the provision of unpaid work/support to non-household members, excluding that provided only to family members living outside the household.
  • About one third (33.4%) of the Australian population aged 15 years and over participated in informal volunteering in the four weeks prior to the survey (Table 3).

Unpaid work/support to non-household members

  • While there has been a decrease in the proportion of persons aged 18 years and over participating in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation since 2010, there has been an increase in the proportion of people providing unpaid work/support to non-household members (people living outside their household) over the same period (48.9% to 52.6%) (Table 1). 
  • Over half (51.5%) of the Australian population aged 15 years and over provided unpaid work/support to non-household members in last four weeks. Women were more likely to provide this unpaid work/support than men (54.9% and 48.2% ) (Table 3).
  • In the four weeks prior to completing the survey in 2019, Australians provided 136.2 million hours of unpaid work/support to non-household members (Table 11).
  • Of those who provided unpaid work/support to non-household members in last four weeks the most common types of unpaid work/support provided were 'Providing any emotional support' (50.5%), 'Providing transport or running errands' (42.4%) and 'Domestic work, home maintenance or gardening' (41.9%) (Table 10 and Graph 4).
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Data downloads

Table 1: Social Experiences–By Sex, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2019

Table 2: Overall Life Satisfaction–By Sex, 2014 and 2019

Table 3: Social Experiences–By Age and Sex, 2019

Table 4: Social Experiences–By Sex and Health Characteristics, 2019

Table 5: Social Experiences–By Migrant Status, 2019

Table 6: Social Experiences–By Sexual Orientation, 2019

Table 7: Voluntary Work and Unpaid Work/Support–By personal characteristics, 2019

Table 8: Unpaid voluntary work through an organisation, Characteristics of voluntary work–By Sex, 2019

Table 9: Unpaid voluntary work through an organisation, Annual hours–By Age and Sex, 2019 

Table 10: Unpaid work/support to non-household members, Characteristics of unpaid work/support–By Sex, 2019

Table 11: Unpaid work/support to non-household members, Hours in last 4 weeks–By Age and Sex, 2019

Table 12: Without a permanent place to live, Selected characteristics and experiences, 2019

Table 13: Household Income and Wealth–By Family composition of household, 2019

Table 14: Household Financial Stress–2006, 2010, 2014 and 2019

Table 15: Social Experiences–By State and territory, 2019

Data item list

All data cubes

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4159.0.