We are wealthier than at any time since before the recession, but feel more discrimination and loneliness and are less ready for emergencies.

The survey

Statistics NZ's General Social Survey has been conducted every two years since 2008-09. The latest survey questioned 8795 New Zealanders 15 and over in face-to-face interviews between April last year and March this year.

Life satisfaction

Overall, 83 per cent of us rate ourselves as at least 7 on a 10-point scale of "life satisfaction". Our average score in the latest OECD comparison, based on Gallup poll data, is 11th out of 35 countries, one place higher than Australia.


The most satisfied New Zealanders are employed people and Europeans (both 84 per cent), those aged 65-plus and home-owners (86 per cent), couples without children (87 per cent), graduates with degrees and new migrants (88 per cent) and those earning at least $70,000 a year (93 per cent).

Least satisfied are people (migrants and NZ-born) who have been in the country at least five years (82 per cent), those aged 45 to 64 (81 per cent), Maori and Pacific people and people earning less than $30,000 (78 per cent), people with no qualifications (77 per cent), renters (76 per cent) and unemployed people and sole parents (70 per cent).

Sense of purpose

Asked to rate whether they felt that life was worthwhile on a scale of 1 to 10, a similar 87 per cent gave answers of 7 or higher. The demographic pattern was exactly the same as for life satisfaction.

Financial wellbeing

New Zealanders are better off financially than in any previous survey since the General Social Survey began. Those saying their income is "not enough" to meet their everyday needs rose from 15 per cent in 2008-09 to peak at 17 per cent two years later, but has now fallen to 12 per cent. Conversely, those who say they have "more than enough" has risen from around 13 per cent in the first two surveys to 15 per cent in 2012-13 and 17 per cent in the latest survey.

Those reporting "not enough" this year range from 18 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 through around 12 per cent of all middle-aged groups to only 7 per cent of those aged 65-plus. Those most likely to report "not enough" are Pacific people (31 per cent), sole parents (30 per cent), Maori (21 per cent) and renters (20 per cent).



New Zealanders had the second-highest self-reported health status out of 35 countries in the last OECD report, behind only the United States. A consistent 60 per cent of Kiwis reported "excellent" or "very good" health in all General Social Surveys to date. Those in only "fair" or "poor" health range from 7 per cent of young adults to 23 per cent of the elderly.

The numbers have been stable across the four surveys for most groups except sole parents, where those with fair or poor health rose from 15 per cent in the last survey to 22 per cent.


Almost half of renters have problems with dampness or mould in their homes - 34 per cent say it's a minor problem and 12 per cent say it's a major problem. The figures are lower for homeowners: 22 per cent and 3 per cent. Only 9 per cent of renters and 6 per cent of owners say their homes need immediate or extensive repairs.


Only 44 per cent of women feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark and 33 per cent feel safe waiting for public transport at night, compared with 78 per cent and 68 per cent of men on the same questions. The numbers of women feeling safe walking alone at night has dropped sharply from 52 per cent in the last survey. Women feel safer alone at home at night (81 per cent), but still less than men (92 per cent).

Emergency preparedness

Households keeping enough water for three days in case of an emergency jumped after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, from 44 per cent in 2010-11 to 52 per cent two years later. But numbers have dropped back to only 47 per cent in the latest survey.

Wellingtonians are the most likely to have three days' water stored away (67 per cent) and Aucklanders are the least likely (37 per cent).


The proportion who say they experienced discrimination in the past year jumped from a steady 10 per cent in the first three surveys to 17 per cent this year, including 27 per cent of Asians (up 11 points), 26 per cent of Maori (up 10 points), 20 per cent of Pacific people (up 9 points) and 15 per cent of Europeans (up 7 points).

However, Statistics NZ said this was because the question changed. Two years ago people were asked: "In the last 12 months have you been treated unfairly or had something nasty done to you because of the group you belong to or seem to belong to?" The latest survey asked a broader question: "By discrimination I mean being treated unfairly or differently compared with other people. In the last 12 months have you been discriminated against?"


People were slightly more likely to say they were at least occasionally lonely in the latest survey (36 per cent) than in the previous survey (31 per cent), but that may be because the previous survey used the word "isolated" instead of "lonely".

Women are slightly more likely to feel lonely at least occasionally (40 per cent) than men (32 per cent).

Yet women are also more likely to see relatives outside the household at least once a week (55 per cent of women against 48 per cent of men) and to see friends at least weekly (65 per cent of women, 62 per cent of men).


Asked, "how much do you trust most people in New Zealand?" on a scale of 1 to 10, 68 per cent rate their compatriots 7 or above.

Intriguingly, migrants who arrived in the past five years are more likely (81 per cent) to trust most people than those who arrived more than five years ago (74 per cent), and native-born Kiwis are the least trusting (66 per cent).

Tolerance of diversity

Finally, people were asked: "How would you feel if you had a new neighbour who (a) was from a religious minority, (b) was gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, (c) was a racial or ethnic minority, (d) had a mental illness or (e) was a new migrant?"

Three-quarters said they would feel comfortable with all categories except mental illness, where only 52 per cent would be comfortable.

Tolerance of a mentally ill neighbour was highest among young people aged 15 to 24 (60 per cent) and Maori (59 per cent), and lowest amongst the elderly (47 per cent) and Asians (40 per cent).

Happiness in giving to community

Dr Seini Taufa.
Dr Seini Taufa.

Dr Seini Taufa says studying her PhD was a test of endurance and resilience.

Her smile says it all - a young woman who is content in the life she is living.

Dr Seini Taufa has achieved a lot in her life. She holds a bachelor and masters of health science and this month graduated from Auckland University with a PhD in paediatrics.

"Doing a PhD is a test of endurance. You learn resiliency. Once I graduated, once I handed my thesis in, I was so happy because the hard work paid off."

Dr Taufa is a Pacific analyst for the Growing Up in NZ Study, a research co-ordinator for the Taha Well Pacific Mother and Infant Service and also works in Pacific youth suicide prevention.

Being able to help and give back to her family and community gives her a great sense of purpose and happiness.

"My parents were migrants and I'm one of 10 children. I know what struggling is. Being passionate about something and giving back to your community - I'm happy to do that."

Maori renter turned away

Social worker Kylie Urwin feels discriminated against after she was declined a rental property in Mangere Bridge. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Social worker Kylie Urwin feels discriminated against after she was declined a rental property in Mangere Bridge. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Social worker Kylie Urwin applied to rent a house in Mangere Bridge in January with her two sons, then aged 15 and 20, and her parents.

She knew the house owner, the outgoing tenants gave her a "rave review" and the property manager was positive at first.

"Then while we were standing there waiting to take possession ... this other couple walked up the driveway dressed in their suits, and they walked out the door with the keys. If that's not discrimination ..."

Ms Urwin, 39, has a ta moko on her arm and is clearly Maori. The couple who got the property were Pakeha, she said.

In her job working with sole parents for the Manukau Urban Maori Authority, she faced huge barriers trying to get rental housing for her clients.

The 2014 New Zealand General Social Survey (app users click here)

"The stereotype is that because you are Maori, you are on welfare."