Half of Australians think life is better than 50 years ago

London: Only half of Australians think that life in 2017 is better than it was in 1967 before the advent of the internet, mobile phones and globalisation of world economies, which has seen consumers exposed to more choice than ever before.

The finding comes from a global survey of 43,000 citizens of 38 countries including Australia, which found that those most positive about life today compared to half a century ago live on Australia's doorstep in the Asia Pacific.

Sixty-eight per cent of South Koreans think life today is better, along with 69 per cent of Indians. But it was the Vietnamese who proved most positive, with 88 per cent preferring life today compared to 1967 which was a pivotal year in the Vietnam War.

"That's because fifty years ago Vietnam was in the middle of a large war and was not as economically strong as it is today so that makes total sense that countries like Vietnam, South Korea, countries that weren't as economically prosperous or in the middle of conflict feel that life is better off today," said Jacob Poushter from the Pew Research Centre, which conducted the study.

It is the first time Pew has asked the question in so many countries, having previously only surveyed the United States.

Bar chart showing that globally, assessments vary on whether life is better or worse than 50 years ago

Only fifty per cent of Australians think that life today is better compared to life when Harold Holt was prime minister and a third think life today is actually worse.

Australia and the UK recorded the two biggest gaps in positivity when gauged on an age basis. Sixty-three per cent of 18-29-year olds, who weren't alive fifty years ago, ranked life today as better compared to 41 per cent of those aged above fifty who preferred their life when they themselves were young.

Table showing that in several countries, youth more positive on life in the modern day

Fifty-nine per cent of those who said life was better today were better educated compared to 45 per cent who were lesser educated and preferred life five decades ago.

"You're seeing some generational and socio-demographic divides which might explain why Australians are not as positive as some other countries that have a very strong and stable economy like in northern Europe," Mr Poushter said.

Mr Poushter said the driving factor behind positive sentiment was a country's economic success. He said Latin America and the Middle East recorded the highest levels of pessimism.

"Relative to other countries, the US and some other major European countries like France and Italy are much less positive on whether life is better today... compared to the some of the other European countries [like] Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden where many people said that life was better."

In the United States, opinion barely changed compared to last year but since the election of Donald Trump as president, Republicans were more in favour of life today compared to Democrats but this was reversed only two years ago as Barack Obama's presidency drew to a close.

In Europe, those with a favourable view of groups like the National Front in France, AfD in Germany and UKIP in the UK were more likely to favour yesteryear than today.

This story Half of Australians think life is better than 50 years ago first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.