International Wellbeing Study shows New Zealanders doing well

Posted on 3 March 2020

The latest results from the International Wellbeing Study (IWS) are producing interesting results, including that older people are happier, people in relationships are doing well, and New Zealanders’ level of happiness compares well with other countries.  

Regarded as one of the most in depth wellbeing studies in the world, the IWS involves over 70 researchers globally, has been completed over 10,000 times in more than 100 countries, and is available in 16 languages.

“The IWS is unique as it assesses wellbeing on an international level as well as the components that make up wellbeing, such as strengths, meaning, engagement, relationships and personal values,” says Dr. Aaron Jarden, President of the New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology and lecturer in psychology at the Open Polytechnic.

The study began in March 2009 and is ongoing taking in new participant every three months.  The latest findings are based around the scores of 6,487 participants (with a New Zealand cohort of 1,558 participants) answering the same 208 questions every three months for a year, and then yearly thereafter.

“Through the initial findings we’ve found that men and women differ quite substantially in regards to their levels of wellbeing, their range of wellbeing, and importantly the components that made up their wellbeing”.

“Analysis shows that while females scored higher in areas such as personal growth and mindfulness, males indicated they were lonelier, worked more, and were more satisfied with life in the past,” says Dr. Jarden.

“In terms of relationships, people who were single reported more depressed mood while those in relationships reported much greater life satisfaction, highlighting the importance of positive relationships for wellbeing.”

Age also showed variance in reports of wellbeing with the older a person was, the happier they were, although this is already a robust finding in the literature. “Younger people, on the other hand, reported more depressed mood, more rumination and that they were searching for meaning in life more.”

Countries differed on a number of wellbeing indicators for example, people in Russia reporting the highest levels of depressed mood, people in the Philippines reporting the highest amount of time being happy, and people in Mexico reporting the most satisfaction with their lives.

“By and large New Zealanders reported in the top end of most wellbeing indicator scales, such as for positive emotions like joy, but interestingly did not use their strengths as frequently.  Using your strengths is usually a factor strongly associated with higher wellbeing,” Dr. Jarden says. “Countries that are high in strengths use are generally much more productive and have better performing economies.

Some of the most interesting findings to come out of the study to date highlight the importance of both living in alignment with personal values and being satisfied with time use, and how these both strongly predict wellbeing.

The IWS is supported and funded by the Open Polytechnic, Victoria University of Wellington, and the New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology.

The study was developed by six key researchers in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and in China:  Dr. Aaron Jarden, Professor Ormond Simpson, Dr. Kennedy Mclachlan, Associate Professor Todd Kashdan, Dr. Alexander MacKenzie, and Associate Professor Paul Jose.
Results of this study are set to be published in the International Journal of Wellbeing ( towards the end of 2011.  The International Wellbeing Study is currently open to new participants until the end of June.

To view the Close Up story on the International Wellbeing study go to: