Sleep and sex will make you happier than a payrise, study shows
A GOOD night's sleep and having a good sex life have a far greater impact on our wellbeing than money.
And strong relationships with family and friends, job security and the good health of loved ones are also much more important than flash cars and exotic holidays.
The claims come from a new Living Well Index, which looks at how people cope best with the stresses of modern life.
The study by Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research found the average person has a Living Well score of 62.2 out of 100, while those living best are defined as the 20 per cent with top scores between 72 and 92.
Researchers claim those who regularly get a good night's sleep enjoy an improvement in wellbeing greater than the impact of a fourfold increase in spending money. The most rested people scored 15 points higher on average than those who struggled with their sleep.
"Better sleep is the biggest single contributor to living better," the UK-based research authors said. "Over 60 per cent of the group living very well felt rested most or all of the time after sleep - but less than 5 per cent of the group struggling felt this way.
"Moving from feeling rested 'some of the time' to the well-rested levels of the top group would gain the typical person four points on the 0 to 100 Living Well Index scale.
"This improvement would exceed even the benefits of quintupling someone's disposable income."
The happiest people were also more likely to report being highly satisfied with their sex life, with the poll of 8250 adults finding almost two-thirds of those at the top said they were satisfied with their sex life - twice the average.
Abril Benedit, 24, and Facundo Arguello, 25, gave up their careers in psychology and marketing in Argentina to travel the world and spend more time with one another. They said having sex made obviously them feel good but also stabilised their energy levels and strengthened their connection to each other.
"We are looking to find happiness in travelling and having a healthy life; going new places, finding new cultures, we are in search of that," Ms Benedit said. "We think it is really important, having sex is good for the relationship."
The researchers found regular and "real" - not virtual - interactions with neighbours, friends and family also made a big difference, with 73 per cent of those living very well having strong support networks.
"The analysis suggests that by enhancing the quality and strength of these local relationships, people could live happier, more satisfied lives," the researchers reported.
Overall, people over 50 were consistently much more happy, the study found, especially those aged over 65.
The Living Well Index, which scored people on a zero to 100 scale, also grouped people into six different life stages and found people aged 35 to 54 who didn't have children had the lowest scores due to weaker support networks and poorer sex life satisfaction.
"Perhaps surprisingly we found the Young Families group (who had at least one child at home aged under five) is living best, with an average score above that of the Working Baby Boomers," the report stated.
Australasian Sleep Association president Dr Maree Barnes said it was interesting to see the UK research validating the role of a good sleep to a person's wellbeing.
"We've always believed good sleep has a role in wellbeing and it's good news to see it being recognised," she said. "Sleep gives you the ability to cope with the other things in life, whether it's a poor income, or life's stresses, it has a flow on effect. You are behind the Eight ball if you haven't had enough sleep. "
She said a recent Deloittes report into the costs of poor sleep in Australia estimated the loss of wellbeing to the nation at $40.1 billion, affecting four in 10 Australian adults, or a total of 7.4 million people.
Health coach Micah Christian, who runs personal training sessions for busy inner-city workers in Surry Hills, said she told her clients they needed a minimum of eight hours a night to keep healthy.
"People do need reminding about how much sleep they should get," Ms Christian said. "If you haven't had enough you can get food cravings and obviously it can hit their energy levels … if you are tired and don't exercise you're not going to have a good sex life."