How stressed are Australians?

Given the last few years of pandemic, fires and floods, we were interested to check up on Australians’ resilience and wellbeing. In the Australian Community Survey, we asked Australians how stressed they have felt in the past month. A majority of Australians, 64%, rate their stress as 5 out of 10 or above. There are similar proportions (12-13%) who experience both very low and very high stress.

In December 2022, the Australian Community Survey (ACS) by NCLS Research asked Australians, ‘How stressed have you felt in the past month?’ on a range from 0 (no stress at all) to 10 (very high stress). 

While the average score for respondents was 5.35 out of 10, the results show a wide spread of experience.

A majority of Australians, 64%, rate their stress as 5 out of 10 or above, indicating that most people experience a moderate level of stress or higher. 

When looking more closely at those who report higher stress levels, we find that some 40% of Australians rate their stress as 7 out of 10 or above, which means that a strong minority of Australians are experiencing high to very high stress levels. 

Perhaps as expected, given the last few years of hardship, the ‘level of stress’ profile is skewed towards the ‘very high stress’ end of the spectrum.

At the extreme ends of the spectrum, the survey showed similar proportions of people who reported no or very low stress (13%)  and high or very high stress (12%).


These findings mirror results from both the 2020 ACS and 2021 ACS, and suggest the overall stress profile of Australians has remained similar over recent years. 


Common sources of stress

So, what are Australians most stressed by? 

The most common sources of stress listed are health concerns (27%) and family relationships (24%). These two top stressors are then followed by possible or actual loss of household income (17%). 

The impact of COVID-19 appears to have lowered between 2021 and 2022, when considering  safety concerns and the impact of isolation and loneliness.  However in late 2022, around one in eight Australians were still concerned about the safety of friends and family due to COVID-19 (16%)and still struggle with the impact of isolation and loneliness (15%).


Sources of stress in past month (Nov/Dec 2022)

Health concerns, other than COVID-19



Family relationships



Possible or actual loss of household income



Safety of self, close family members or friends, due to COVID-19.



Impact of isolation or loneliness



Being able to access basic needs and services






Children's education



The impacts of flooding or other extreme weather event



Source: 2022 Australian Community Survey, n=3090





Stress and Wellbeing

Researchers of a 20 year study of wellbeing by Deakin University called Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, talk about the ‘golden triangle’ of wellbeing: financial control, relationships, and having a sense of purpose.

“There is a complex relationship between wealth and wellbeing,” says Dr Ruth Powell, NCLS Research Director. “Poor people and rich people experience different kinds of stress. The poor suffer from ‘bad stress’ associated with insecurity of things like food and shelter. In contrast, wealthy people experience ‘good stress,’ which is associated with pursuing their goals and striving more generally.

“Interestingly, researchers have found that going from being poor to a moderate income does increase life satisfaction. However, once you’re moderately well off, it takes immense sums of money to marginally improve life satisfaction.”


Data Sources:

2022 Australian Community Survey by NCLS Research (n=3,090)

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