New Zealanders have become less discriminatory, are better prepared for disasters, and are more conscious of environmental issues such as recycling, a new survey shows.
But life has become harder for recent migrants and more than half of Aucklanders say they don't have enough money for daily necessities.
Statistics New Zealand's General Social Survey provides an in-depth look at what makes us satisfied in life.
The latest 2012 results were published yesterday and reveal that barely half of Kiwis say they have enough or more than enough money to pay the bills - but good health, relationships and housing mean most of us live a contented life.
Completed to measure social change over time, previous surveys were carried out in 2008 and 2010.
The Herald looks at how Kiwis rate their lot - and how the country is changing.
Money helps - but isn't everything
The daily struggle to make ends meet doesn't necessarily spoil New Zealanders' happiness.
Just 52 per cent of Kiwis say they have enough or more than enough money to pay the bills - but other factors mean 87 per cent of us are contented with life.
That satisfaction rate is above the OECD average and similar to Australia, the United States and Canada.
Unsurprisingly, those with an annual household income of more than $100,000 were more likely to be satisfied than those with less money, with 91 per cent satisfied or very satisfied.
But those with an annual household income of $30,000 or less weren't all miserable - 79 per cent reported being satisfied or very satisfied.
"There's more to life than just money," commented the survey's manager, Philip Walker. "Most New Zealanders appear to be content with their lives."
The big four
As well as money, Statistics NZ said the survey results showed three other aspects of life were most important in determining people's overall life satisfaction: health, relationships, and housing.
Twenty-one per cent of New Zealanders had good outcomes in all four of these fields, reporting excellent or very good health, more than enough or enough money, never felt lonely, and no major housing problem.
That segment of society know their good fortune, with 98 per cent saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with life overall.
On the other hand, one in 20 Kiwis said they did not have good health, enough money or good housing, and reported feeling lonely in the past four weeks.
Yet 55 per cent of those people were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives overall.
Those in the 65-74 age bracket were happiest, with 91.4 per cent reporting being satisfied (47.9 per cent) or very satisfied (43.5 per cent). Those aged 15-24-years-old were also among the most content - 88.1 per cent being satisfied (56.3 per cent) or very satisfied (31.8 per cent) with life. Most unhappy was the 45-54 age group, where 53 per cent were satisfied and 30.3 per cent very satisfied. Statistics NZ noted that life stages all had a significant impact on life satisfaction.
Pacific and Asian people reported less experience of discrimination in the past year.
Just over 10 per cent of Pacific people reported an experience of discrimination in the latest survey, down from 14.1 per cent in 2008 and 15.6 per cent in 2010.
The change was more dramatic for Asians, with those reporting discrimination dropping from 23.2 per cent to 15.8 per cent in four years.
The Christchurch earthquakes are probably the main reason why Kiwis are now better prepared for disasters.
Households with enough water for three days have risen from 40.7 per cent in 2008 to 51.5 per cent in 2012. And those dealing with New Zealand's ever increasing house prices won't be surprised to find that from 2008 to 2012 home ownership dropped from 71.2 per cent to 66.7 per cent, with renting increasing over the same period.
New Zealanders are becoming more aware of the need to recycle, with four out of five households now claiming to recycle most or all of their rubbish.
That has increased from 73.9 per cent in 2008, to 77.9 per cent in 2010 and 80.1 per cent last year.
And more households now say they minimise their energy use all or most of the time - jumping from 53.9 per cent to 60.8 per cent in four years. However, those saving energy partly for environmental reasons has fallen 7 per cent to 32.3 per cent.
Unemployed people were less likely to be satisfied with life than any other population group described in the survey results.
Those without a job were three times more likely (14 per cent) than the employed (4.5 per cent) to say they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their lives overall, and twice as likely as those not in the labour force (7.5 per cent).
However, those who are without work are coping better - the proportion of unemployed saying they do not have enough to live on has fallen to 44.7 per cent, down from 48.7 per cent in 2008. And people who do have jobs are also generally feeling better off.
Those saying they were satisfied or very satisfied increased 2.2 per cent from 2008 to 2012, and the proportion reporting they have more than enough to live on increased from 15.6 per cent to 18.1 per cent in the same period.
NZ a tougher place to settle ...
Recent migrants are feeling significantly less happy.
Those ranking themselves as very satisfied with life overall has dropped to 28 per cent, down from 33.3 per cent in 2010 (not recorded in 2008).
Those with "excellent" health status fell from 36.7 per cent to 29.2 per cent in the same period, and new migrants who said they felt safe when walking alone in their neighbourhood at night dropped 5.3 per cent to 68.4 per cent.
... particularly so in Auckland
Higher rents and house prices as well as a longer and costlier work commute will be some of the reasons why Aucklanders are struggling the most financially in New Zealand.
About 53 per cent of people in the Auckland region said they did not have enough money to meet their everyday needs.
That compared to 42 per cent of people living in Wellington or Canterbury.