The conventional belief held by many people is that those living in rural communities face tougher challenges, in terms of lower incomes and poorer health. But according to the results of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Survey (HILDA), an annual survey conducted by the University of Melbourne involving 17,000 respondents, people who live in the bush are the happiest Australians, reporting a fairly high level of personal satisfaction as compared to their counterparts living in bigger cities.

The author of the report, Associate Professor Roger Wilkins, says that the paper does not actually detail why people living in smaller towns are actually happier. However, he has posited a few possible reasons for this. For one, smaller communities lack traffic congestion and commute times are relatively shorter. Compared with bigger cities, the crime rates are fairly low, too.

People living in the bush may have to face a host of challenges, including health and income issues, but these challenges seem to be outweighed by other factors.

In another aspect of the survey, the report said that marriage tends to benefit men more. In terms of happiness and improvement in health, the report said that men tend to get the most positive impact out of marriages. Although women do benefit out of these partnerships, the disparity between the two genders is notable.

The report even suggests that people in de facto relationships tend to fare better than their married counterparts. What’s the reason behind this disparity? The author suggests that married couple have a greater tendency to have children. And having children can adversely affect the level of relationship satisfaction among couples, creating tensions in the relationship. Children, however, can contribute to the personal satisfaction and happiness of each individual partner.

It also does not help that many couples are often caught unprepared with the stress and responsibility that is often associated with parenthood. Furthermore, parents living in urban areas often do not get the support that they greatly need in raising a child.

Another striking finding from the study is the impact of one’s sexual identity on one’s health and well-being. In particular, the study revealed that people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual have reported being less happy and having poorer health.

Although in recent years, members of the lesbian gay bisexual transgender and intersex or LGBTI community have made considerable progress, especially in metropolitan communities, they still remain vulnerable to physical violence, public insults and explicit threats the farther they move from cities. As such, the members of these communities need all the help they can get, especially in terms of mental health services.

Click here to listen to Australia Counselling Founder Clinton Power on 702 ABC Radio discuss the results of the study.

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