Australians yet to shake pandemic blues as costs bite

Australians are generally not as happy as they were before COVID-19, as pandemic-related troubles give way to cost of living and housing concerns.

A biennial report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare draws on wide-ranging data to analyse the pandemic's temporary and lasting affects on the way Australians live and work.

The in-depth study, entitled Australia's Welfare 2023, shows life satisfaction and psychological distress have improved but not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

A quarterly Australian National University survey put average life satisfaction at seven out of 10 in October 2019, before it fell to 6.5 in April 2020 and August 2021.

The metric had picked up to 6.8 by January this year, but dropped back to 6.6 in August.

That month, 30.3 per cent of Australians reported finding it difficult or very difficult to live on their income, up from 17.3 per cent during the first year of the pandemic in November 2020.

But the 322-page report noted price increases from inflation rates not seen in Australia since the 1990s had become a "key determinant" of life satisfaction by October 2022.

"Household income in Australia declined in real terms by about 3.1 per cent between April and October 2022, suggesting a decline in living standards,' read the report, published on Thursday.

"Life satisfaction in October 2022 was 10 per cent lower for people who thought price increases were a very big problem (6.4) compared to those who did not (7.1), and 14 per cent lower for those in the bottom income quintile (6.2) compared with the top income quintile (7.2)."

Despite wages falling in real terms, Australian renters on average paid an extra 2.5 per cent in the 2023 June quarter alone and 6.7 per cent annually, the largest yearly rise since 2009.

But the cost of living and housing crises had not translated to more people joining the welfare queue by March, with the proportion of Australians 16 and over on income support settling back to pre-pandemic levels (24 per cent).

While restrictions and vaccine mandates have all but been abandoned across the country, the report shows the human toll of COVID-19 continues to mount.

There have been 10,176 more deaths than expected in Australia from the start of the pandemic to March, with COVID-19 accounting for a high proportion of those as the nation's eighth leading cause of total disease burden in 2022.

The institute's deputy chief executive officer Matthew James said Australia had come a long way since the previous edition of the report in September 2021.

"At that time, many Australians were experiencing lockdowns, only 44.7 per cent of people over the age of 16 were fully vaccinated against COVID and most children aged 12-15 weren’t yet eligible to receive COVID vaccines," he said.

"Life is much more 'normal' now for most Australians, however, some things are quite different to before the pandemic."


* More than $212 billion was spent on welfare in 2021/22

* COVID-19 accounted for 151,400 years of healthy life lost in 2022

* The proportion of Australians aged 18 and over working from home most days doubled from 13 per cent in March 2020 to about 26 to 31 per cent between September 2020 and February 2021

* 815,500 Australians lived in social housing in 2021/22

* The proportion of First Nations people living in overcrowded housing fell from 31 per cent to 19 per cent between 2001 and 2021

* Australia's prison population increased from 29,380 in mid-2012 to 40,591 by mid-2022

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store