According to reports of new resesarch on the Australian Unity Wellbeing survey, the federal electorate of Grayndler* is the unhappiest, while Wide Bay is the happiest. While others have read this as evidence that money can’t buy you happiness, I worry that it tells us that self-reported happiness isn’t a very good indicator of wellbeing. After all, if people are maximising their happiness, they should be moving out of glum areas. But according to the ABS, Sydney ain’t shrinking. Between 1998 and 2003, 46,000 people moved to the Sydney Statistical District.
Update, 14/2: Thanks to David, I’ve read the report (PDF). So far as I can see, none of the differences are statistically significant. The sample sizes in individual electorates is around 100 (see PDF page 23). Stata tells me that for a difference of 69.4% (Grayndler) and 78.6% (Wide Bay) to be statistically significant at the 10% level, I would need a sample of 526 people in each electorate. So as a social scientist, the right way to read this research is "there are no significant happiness differences across federal electorates". Journalists who report it in any other way are misleading their readers.
* An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the electorate of Sydney as the unhappiest, instead of Grayndler. Teach me to trust newspaper reports of research.