Money not the key to Kiwi happiness, but it’s a start

25 Sep, 2017
Money not the key to Kiwi happiness, but it’s a start
Professor Rex Billington

Money may not buy happiness but material conditions are a significant factor in determining quality of life, according to a visiting academic.

Bath University’s Professor Suzanne Skevington is speaking the 2010 Quality of Life Conference which starts today (February 22-24) at AUT University and will discuss how material conditions affect quality of life and the implications this has for social policy.

Professor Skevington will discuss the 24 aspects that have been identified as important to people’s quality of life world-wide by the World Health Organisation’s Quality of Life (WHOQOL) Group.

The aspects include sleep and rest, self-esteem, mobility, sexual activity, home environment and personal beliefs and come under the six broad domains of quality of life: physical health, psychological, level of independence, social relations, environment and spirituality.

She says international findings about the impact of material conditions on quality of life have implications for social policy in New Zealand, particularly policy directed at certain age and ethnic groups that are over-represented in lower income brackets.

Skevington’s presentation will trace the path of nearly two decades of research initiated by the WHO to better assess quality of life in diverse cultures, resulting in the WHOQOL scale which now exists in 50 languages.

“What people believe to be a good quality life varies between cultures, and between social groups within them,” says Skevington.

“Delivering a good quality of life has become a key goal of contemporary health care for health professionals and policy-makers but prior to the introduction of the WHOQOL measures its definition and assessment has been something of an enigma.”

“Even now [quality of life] is still often confused with standard of living, life satisfaction, and subjective well-being.”

AUT University’s Professor Rex Billington has established the New Zealand branch of WHOQOL and begun identifying the factors that are particular to New Zealanders’ quality of life.

A survey released last year indicated 86% of Kiwis were happy, (New Zealand General Social Survey, 2009), but Professor Billington says the WHOQOL scale assesses satisfaction in the different dimensions people consider important to the quality of life which are “not necessarily the things politicians and government officials consider important”.

Other speakers at the Quality of Life conference include the University of Melbourne’s Professor Graeme Hawthorne and University of Auckland’s Professor Glynn Owens.

To register for the conference or for more information visit

Dr. Rex Billington is an Adjunct Professor in Psychology at AUT. He spent 18 years with the World Health Organisation, his posts included the WHO Regional Advisor for Educational Development and Support in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (1982-92), Director of Technical Support to Countries in the Global Programme for AIDS, Chief of Mental Health Policy and Promotion and Acting Director of Mental Health (1992-2000).