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We're happy ... and we know it

THE war against terror and the global recession have failed to dent Australians' cheery disposition over the past decade.

THE war against terror and the global recession have failed to dent Australians' cheery disposition over the past decade.

Despite the vicissitudes of the millennium's troubled first decade, Australians were marginally happier overall in 2010 than they were in 2001, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Almost four out of five Australians (78 per cent) polled for the 2010 General Social Survey were satisfied with their lives, compared with 76 per cent in 2001. A remarkable 43 per cent of Australians said they were "delighted" with their lives last year.

Happiness in Australia increases with income but fluctuates with age. The proportion of Australians happy with their lives rose steadily from the age of 18 to the mid-30s, then dropped away steeply those aged 45 to 54 were the least satisfied, with three out of 10 reporting their fortunes were somewhere between mixed and terrible. But not for long: those in their first decade of retirement, aged 65 to 74, are the happiest, as 83 per cent of them find life is sweet.

"Of course they are, they've been freed of their responsibilities," says Dr Anthony Grant, director of Sydney University's coaching psychology unit and host of ABC's 2010 reality series Making Australia Happy.

Those unhappy in middle age? "That's because your children drive you mad," Dr Grant said. "At that age, we're dealing with teenagers, with education issues, we have a lot of responsibility."

And not just teenagers: 75 per cent of parents with children living elsewhere were still helping the kids with money, transport or material goods. Only a small proportion of these were paying child support.

From the latest figures from the nation's statisticians, we also prove an insular people: 73 per cent said all or most of their friends were the same ethnicity, and 65 per cent said their friends were all of a similar age. Family remains supreme: only half of Australians (53 per cent) had three or more friends in whom they could confide.

The bureau's glowing report backs up Australia's ranking as the happiest nation on earth, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Its 2011 Better Life Initiative index found Australia the happiest of 34 OECD member countries.

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