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How is Your Golden Triangle?

The culmination of twenty-nine Australian happiness surveys over twelve years by Melbourne’s Deakin University has revealed — if you live within the golden triangle, you’re more than likely to be happy.

A loving partner, up to $100,000 of household income and a social activity that offers a sense of purpose is the new “golden triangle of happiness” according to Deakin University Professor Robert Cummins.

Prof Cummins has also offered hope to Australia’s ageing population by saying that life really does get better with age.

“People who are the happiest of the golden triangle group are the elderly with no dreadful conditions like severe arthritis,” he said.

“Happiness tends to rise beyond the age of 55 or 60. I’m not quite sure whether it is because the kids have left home or they’re thinking about leaving a dreadful job.”

Prof Cummins explained the three elements:


“More important than money is having a good intimate relationship,” he said.

“You only need one person to share your life, and having that person is incredibly important. People who haven’t got someone to share their life in an intimate way – where you can share your troubles – are very vulnerable to the bad things that happen to them. This is extremely consistent across all of our surveys.”


“The magic number is $100,000 of gross annual household income. It’s not that more money makes it better, it’s that you need a certain amount,” he said.

“How much you need depends on kids and your location.”

“On a national average, mood/happiness rises with a gross household income up until that $100,000 point and then nothing further happens to it beyond that. Below that mood, happiness goes down.”

“There is a myth that children decrease happiness. That is just not true.”

“It depends on whether you’ve got financial resources and personal relationship resources and particularly if you’re trying to raise four kids on $50,000, for example, you’re going to struggle.”


“Having something interesting to do is the third element. People are happier if they are active; in a footy club, in a sewing circle, whatever,” he said.

“If you can combine that activity with social contact and a sense of purpose, then that is best.”

“People who do volunteer work combine those very well. The more active they are and more socially connected the better they are.”

“Chess clubs are not ideal, for example, because they are not very socially interactive.”

Prof Cummins, who is the brains behind the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, has also pointed to an anomaly in international research: Australian widows are the world’s happiest.

“The funny thing that happens in Australia – and it doesn’t transfer to other countries – is that widows are really happy as a group,” he said.

“Generally they are OK financially and it may well be they have a new lease on life.”

“It’s a female thing rather than a male thing because females are so much better at creating socially supportive relationships than widowers are.”

“It doesn’t happen in other countries, particularly in other countries where there is a massive financial hit when the husband dies and the wife is left on her own to earn your own living.”

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