Most are content but anxious: poll

Older Australians are, by and large, happy and satisfied, but also anxious, according to the results of the Friday Flash Poll: Over-55s mood checker.

The overall sentiment is that older Australians are happy – or ‘content’ as YourLifeChoices Theo1943 puts it.

“I have a dislike of the word ‘happy’. A word I prefer is ‘contented’. I am content,” he wrote.

Loneliness, anxiety and depression are particularly prevalent among older people. These ‘feelings’ can contribute to negative health issues down the road, such as dementia and memory problems, the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, increased blood pressure, weakened immune systems, fatigue and weight problems.

And yet some older Australians refuse to talk about feelings that can have a negative effect on their health beyond just ‘feeling bad’. 

“For some older people, talking about personal matters might not come easily. They may have never really talked about how they feel; it wasn’t the thing to do when they were growing up. Others worry about what will happen as a result of sharing their experiences; they do not want to be seen as a burden and they don’t want to be treated differently. Some also worry that asking for help might be seen as a weakness,” states Beyond Blue.

Our Friday Flash Poll sought to gauge how our members are feeling and the results were mostly positive.

Asked, ‘Are you happy?’:

  • 12 per cent said yes, all the time
  • 46 per cent said they were happy more times than they are unhappy
  • 15 per cent said they were happy as often as they were unhappy
  • 16 per cent said they were unhappy more often than they were happy
  • eight per cent said they were very rarely happy or never happy.

And while these numbers look quite positive, a quarter of our respondents expressed negative feelings about life in general.

“Son in palliative care with end stage pancreatic cancer; husband with dementia. It’s not easy to find the good things in life, but thank goodness for the grandkids who always bring joy to my life,” wrote Jackiet.

“I have cared for so many for so long. Now I need care and I find myself alone. The mental health system is a joke. All they do is talk; they can see my issues but can’t help. Seems no one will/can. I am surprised the suicide rate is as low as it is judging by the pain and suffering that is out there,” wrote tisme.

However, the majority of comments detailed buoyant positivity about retirement and their situation.

“I have been retired now for 12 years and the secret to a happy retirement is to be busy with something constructive. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it provides satisfaction at the end of the day,” wrote Tom Tank.

“My wife and I retired five years ago. We always have something to do, we are not bored, and we regularly travel in our motorhome in Australia and flying overseas. We are not filthy rich, but we worked hard and made salary sacrifices to set ourselves up for retirement. Life is good in our mid-60s!” wrote Dobbo1.

“I live alone but am not bored or lonely. I have a good relationship with my family and keep in touch with friends. However, I always have some concern about health, as I have medical limitations. Also dental health, and how I will manage health and finances into the future. I also hope my rented housing is secure,” wrote rtish.

Of the 429 survey respondents, 39 per cent were women and 61 per cent were men. More than half (55 per cent) were married, 10 per cent were widows/widowers, 18 per cent were divorced, five per cent were single or never married, four per cent were separated and 10 per cent were in a relationship.

We asked which moods most typified their current situations:

  • 18 per cent – happy
  • 15 per cent – satisfied
  • eight per cent – anxious
  • six per cent – lonely
  • four per cent – irritable, unsatisfied, isolated, depressed, sad, overwhelmed, tense.

For those who do feel worried or unhappy, we asked how often they felt this way. Two per cent said all of the time, 21 per cent said most of the time, 64 per cent said sometimes. Twelve per cent said they always felt happy.

We thought we’d find out what does contribute to feelings of unhappiness, depression or anxiety and our members told us:

  • Money or just managing finances: seven per cent
  • Health (sick or other medical condition): seven per cent
  • State of the world: seven per cent
  • Lack of friends or social life: seven per cent
  • Money or lack thereof: six per cent
  • Family troubles: six per cent
  • Worried about family’s future: six per cent
  • State of the nation: six per cent
  • The future: six per cent
  • Health (fearful for my health): six per cent
  • Making ends meet: five per cent
  • Issues with my partner: five per cent
  • Environment: four per cent
  • Politics: four per cent
  • Isolation: three per cent
  • Debt: two per cent
  • Recent death of a loved one: two per cent
  • Mental health: two per cent
  • Alcohol or other addiction: one per cent
  • Issues with friends: 0 per cent

So, the overall state of mind of Australian retirees seems positive, but for the quarter of respondents for whom life is tough, we thought we’d share some helpful comments from our members.

Paddington wrote: “I feel depressed reading some of these. So sorry to the ones who are doing it especially hard.

“I am happy to not get up at the crack of dawn lol. That is crazy! I don’t want to pat dogs as I am allergic. I don’t believe in any god so not going there either (lol).

“It is about you, not someone else. Everyone has different needs and wants. Do what makes you happy. If you are disabled look at what you can do to make yourself happy.

“If you are poor, find things that are free that will help make you happy.

“Don’t blame your wife for your unhappiness either. She is only in charge of hers not yours.

“If you are going through heartbreaking times, as some on here are obviously doing, reach out for help and get as much support as you possibly can.

“No one can tell another what to do because they are not you.

“Peace is what some want, excitement is others’ wants.

“I like not having to go to work, sleep in, do what I want when I want and know it is my right to do so.

“There are things I could wish for, but they won’t happen so take them off the list.

“Do what you are able to make yourself as content as possible in the circumstances life has dealt you.”

SFR wrote: “Life is good and it’s what you make of it. Society these days puts untold pressure on everyone and the governments’ constant changing of rules, requirements, stripping us of our personal freedoms etc doesn’t help.

“The western world can be summed up as, buying stuff we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like.

“Get rid of clutter, becoming a minimalist will also relieve stress for most.

“Smile, be happy and basically live for today as the older we get, the less time we have on this planet.”

If you’re concerned about someone you know who may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or just not coping, here’s how to begin a conversation.

For more advice on how to tackle these issues, head to Beyond Blue.

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Disclaimer: Australian readers seeking support and information about suicide and depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information on treating depression, please visit Beyond Blue.

Related articles:
Understanding anxiety
Depression: How do you know?
Strategies to ease anxiety

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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