If you’re a bloke, and you want to be happiest in life, live in a middle-class neighbourhood.
That’s the inescapable conclusion of a research project by Geelong-based researchers from Deakin University and The University of Melbourne.
The researchers found that compared to men that reside in neighbourhoods from the middle of the socioeconomic continuum, men in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods are less satisfied with their physical health, psychological health and surrounding environment; representing a remarkable difference of between 40-55%.
Interestingly, men from high socioeconomic neighbourhoods, when compared to the middle socioeconomic neighbourhoods, also report greater dissatisfaction with their quality of life in these domains; however, those disparities were not as great as observed for men in the lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods.
Drs Sharon Brennan and Lana Williams, along with Professors Julie Pasco and Michael Berk, examined subjective quality of life in 917 men aged between 24 and 29 enrolled in the Geelong Osteoporosis Study in the four domains of psychological health, physical health, social relationships and environment.
These domains encompass health-related and environmental issues, and thereby cover diverse aspects of life circumstances.
Their paper, published in this month's Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, is the first study to use the validated Quality of Life tool developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to examine whether satisfaction with quality of life varies by socioeconomic status in Australian males. Importantly, the study highlights that socioeconomic status and quality of life are complex concepts.
According to the WHO, quality of life is a broad and encompassing construct, defined as “ … perceptions of [an individual’s] position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.
“Adding further complexity to quality of life is the acknowledgement that social and personal resources, as well as physical and psychological capabilities, influence an individual’s ability to enjoy the highest attainable standard of wellbeing and health.
“Material or economic deprivation is associated with social disadvantage, and has been highly related to increased stress. More specifically, the clustering of deprivation at the neighbourhood level, or the area in which we reside, plausibly impacts upon social exclusion, housing, racism, discrimination, inadequate public infrastructure, and potentially less exposure to civic participation, educational attainment, and choices in recreation activities.
Dr Brennan says these findings are important because, potentially, unique barriers may exist for socially disadvantaged and advantaged men to achieve satisfaction with their quality of life.
“Our data suggest that examining the subjective quality of life in the domains of psychological and physical health may provide information beyond symptoms,” she said.
“It is possible that this would enable the identification of otherwise undetectable health problems. In addition, examining quality of life in the domains of social relationships and environments may inform the development and efficient targeting of specific programs and support services.”
Dr Brennan holds a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Fellowship, and Dr Williams holds an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship: both prestigious and highly competitive sources of funding.