Happiness doesn't die with partner

SHANE COWLISHAW AND SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2012

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Losing your loved one is not the end of your life, with widows and widowers among the happiest people who have tied the knot, the surprise finding in a new survey reveals.

The Happiness of New Zealand report, published by UMR Research, asked a group of 750 Kiwis on 35 separate occasions to rate their happiness levels on a scale from zero – being very unhappy – to 10.

Curiously, the research found widows and widowers to be the happiest marital group, with a third of those surveyed rating their happiness at a nine or 10.

Those who are married or in a civil union followed close behind, with females who have never been married, and separated or divorced men the unhappiest.

Money did not necessarily buy happiness, with people earning more than $70,000 a year as happy as those with no income or who made a loss.

And, yes, females are the happier of the sexes, although the gap had closed from the previous year to less than 4 per cent.

Ethnicity wise, Pacific Islanders are the most cheerful, closely followed by Maori. Asians were found to be the unhappiest in the country.

In the wake of devastating earthquakes, it was not surprising Christchurch ranked as the third least happy place in New Zealand, but it seemed Wellingtonians needed to cheer up as they barely trumped them in the happiness stakes.

Even more curious was West Coast/Buller's ranking as the happiest place in New Zealand, given the tragedy of the Pike River mining disaster.

Hokitika psychologist Clare Pierson said she was not surprised by the result as the West Coast had fantastic weather, environment and mateship. "We've had the best summer in New Zealand, it's 21 today and the sun is shining."

Coasters were a durable bunch of people and had a great ability to bounce back from hardship, she said. "People here are very resilient, it's probably the Irish stock."

The coast stole the happy crown from Taranaki, which was the most content region in the previous year.

Other happy people were those who were mortgage free and, in terms of politics, National voters were more satisfied than those who supported Labour or the Greens.

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