April 8, 2020

NAB Australian Wellbeing Report: Q1 2020

Australian wellbeing levels have fallen to survey low levels as anxiety climbs in response to rapid daily life changes due to Coronavirus.

In this podcast, NAB’s Head of Behavioural & Industry Economics Dean Pearson and NAB Health Customer Executive Kate Galvin discuss how Australians are feeling in response to the Coronavirus.


While the economic shock of the virus is clearly very large, we need additional measures to provide a clearer picture of how Australians are coping during this time of crisis. Since 2013, NAB has been producing a quarterly Australian Wellbeing Index to provide such an assessment. The index is based on a survey of over 2,000 Australian’s weighted to be representative of the adult population. Wellbeing is assessed across 4 categories – life satisfaction, life worth, anxiety and happiness.

The NAB Australian Wellbeing Index fell 1.5 points to an equal survey low 62.8 in Q1 2020, well below its long-term average (64.5 points). This decline was driven by heightened anxiety (down 4.7 points to 53.2). Australians were also less happy (down 1.9 points to 64.5). Around 4 in 10 Australians are now “highly anxious”.

NAB’s survey is not designed to detect or diagnose anxiety disorders or pathological anxiety. Talking to a mental health professional is the best way for people to address their concerns. But, what the survey does show is a growing number of Australians are living with a heightened sense of worry. Even prior to the outbreak of the virus, more than 1 in 3 Australians in the survey were reporting feelings of high anxiety. This has now climbed to 4 in 10. And, our anxiety is increasing rapidly, with self-reported anxiety rising very steeply between the first (March 12-16) and second (Mar-17-20) survey waves of 1,000 people each.

While the survey shows that Coronavirus fears are having an impact on anxiety across nearly all demographic groups, there have been particularly large increases in anxiety among apartment dwellers and Australians over the age of 65.

Despite our concerns, Australians also reported somewhat higher levels of life worth and life satisfaction, suggesting a more complex picture is emerging. Life satisfaction and life worth involve our attitude towards our life rather than an assessment of current feelings so are important as we look towards life beyond the current crisis.

In worrying signs of what might lie ahead, the survey continues to show wellbeing lowest for unemployed Australians and by a significant margin. When people become unemployed, their wellbeing falls sharply. While this reflects the impact on people’s income, it also reflects factors such as loss of social status, connection, life structure, purpose and control.

A key element of NAB’s survey is that along with capturing levels of wellbeing it also asks Australians what adds to or detracts from their wellbeing. Interestingly the drivers of wellbeing are very similar pre and post the virus – wellbeing remains most positively influenced by our pets, personal safety, family & personal relationships and our homes. Conversely the factors that impact most negatively on our wellbeing are debts, events (such as abuse and victimisation) and interestingly given many people are unable to travel to work or socialise, lack of time.

Finally, the report explores the issue of trust – critical in getting people to cooperate towards a common goal of containing the spread of the virus. While trust in Government is low, it is rising.

Learn more in the NAB Australian Wellbeing Survey Q1 2020 (Part 1)

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