Summer of stats part 8 – Being happy helping out

By Guest Author 01/02/2010

Unlike the Kingdom of Bhutan we do not have a measure for happiness. But we are world leading in providing a range of social measures that provide a richer view of New Zealand and its people.

One of these measures is the General Social Survey.  Statistics NZ’s field staff interviewed more than 8,700 people between April 2008 and March 2009.

Results showed that 86 percent of people were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives overall.  This result is broadly comparable with other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Over 90 percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that New Zealand should be a society where people can have different values and ways of living, although one in 10 said they had been discriminated against in the past year.

Our contentment is supplemented by our enjoyment in doing voluntary work. Two thirds of the men and women interviewed had participated in some form of voluntary work at least once in the month prior to the survey.

Volunteering seems to be good for volunteers as well as for those they help. People who had done volunteer work expressed slightly higher levels of life satisfaction (89.5 percent) compared to those who hadn’t (84.2 percent).

Women were more likely than the men to have done unpaid work. They did it at least once a week, while men were more likely to have done so only once four weeks. Part of the difference could be because the definition of ’volunteering’ included helping out with organised child care.

Overall, 80 percent said they had adequate money to meet their everyday needs, including accommodation, food, clothing and other necessities.

And what do they not like? The most common neighbourhood problem was noise or vibration.

For more detailed information about GSS visit

An ongoing series from Statistics New Zealand looking at the numbers in our world