Can money make you happy?

The saddest federal electorate is in the heart of Sydney, the richest and most expensive city in the country, while the happiest voters live in one of the nation's poorest rural electorates.

In a survey that turns the accepted wisdom on its head, one of the most disadvantaged electorates in Australia, the Queensland seat of Wide Bay, has emerged as the one where people are at their most content. Wide Bay, which takes in the coast of Hervey Bay and the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, has topped Australia's 150 electorates on the basis of wellbeing and sense of community, according to the first electorate-based national index of wellbeing, compiled by Deakin University.

In standard of living, health, achievement in life, personal relationships, sense of safety, connection to the community and future security, the index found Wide Bay came out on top -- despite limping along at the bottom of other surveys that measure employment, income, education and economic strength.

Eight of the top nine happiest electorates are poor and isolated rural communities, while all of the saddest seats are metropolitan or outer metropolitan seats. Only Treasurer Peter Costello's seat of Higgins in affluent east Melbourne bucked the trend, as it featured in the top 10 happiest electorates.

Sydney's MP, ALP frontbencher Tanya Plibersek, told The Australian she was "sad" to hear her electorate contained the unhappiest voters in Australia but understood why they should feel like that. "I'm sad to hear that, but it's an electorate full of extremes and it doesn't surprise me," said Ms Plibersek.

Ms Plibersek said her electorate had extremes of poverty, in Redfern and Waterloo, and high incomes, which made people aware of differences in their lives. "I think people have a greater sense of disadvantage if they can see very different levels of income next to each other," she said.

If I was living next to people with high incomes, I would draw inspiration from them, and perhaps get a job or work a bit harder, but hey that's just me. We live in more enlightened times now, if only she could find a way to move some of the money from the high income earners to the poor, afterall the rich didn't work for their money, they just screwed some poor people out of theirs, thats all. She wouldn't dare say it out loud, but in her world, the poor feel bad because they can see the rich, so maybe lets take the easy option, make the rich poor and the previous poor, who won't be any better off now, won't feel so bad. Enlightened times indeed.

Mr Costello said the inclusion of Higgins as the only truly metropolitan seat in the top nine was in part due to volunteerism. "People in Higgins have a wonderful community spirit and a high degree of voluntary activity, something which I work to encourage as the local member. Community spirit is the greatest contributor to happiness."

Victoria was the happiest state and Western Australia was the saddest, scoring lowest in terms of sense of community and the most insecure future.

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