The happy news about Wollongong spreads

Friends Samantha Howcroft and Keesha Whitford love being able to ‘‘go to the beach any time’’.
Friends Samantha Howcroft and Keesha Whitford love being able to ‘‘go to the beach any time’’.

If Wollongong truly is the happiest place in Australia, it will come as no surprise it would be due to our coastal laid-back lifestyle.

A study released this week by American smartphone app Jetpac, found that based on the photos we take, Wollongong residents smile bigger and better than anywhere else in the country.

This has led to Wollongong being dubbed "happiest city in Australia" - a dubious title to some but not so surprising to Wollongong psychologist Dr Justin Coulson.

"Regional places like Wollongong make people happier than big cities," he said.

"The beauty of Wollongong is you have more time and less stress, so you can do the things that make you happy."

Dr Coulson, who completed a PhD on parenting and happiness, said happiness was not directly linked to money, social status or location. Instead, it was more linked to our habits and everyday lives: our relationships, hobbies, friendships and religion.

Dianne and Gwyn Jones would move here in a heartbeat.

Most Wollongong residents either worked close to home or made a short commute to work, which was another factor in the city's happiness, he said.

"Short commutes make people happy. If you do a long commute, you don't have a great lifestyle," Dr Coulson said.

"Our access to things we like and people we like makes a big difference to the overall happiness of a person."

Wollongong's title of "happiest city" lit up social media this week, sparking debate online. It even spawned a post from internet news aggregator Buzzfeed - 16 Reasons Wollongong Is The Happiest City In Australia - which boasted almost 60,000 views by Friday, listing beaches, harbours and rainforests as main points of attraction. But for local residents, it all seemed to make sense.

"We can go to the beach any time, everyone is generally pretty calm and smiling and pretty lovely," said Samantha Howcroft of North Wollongong.

"We're close to everything. It's the ultimate lifestyle for a uni student," agreed friend Keesha Whitford.

Sitting at North Beach pavilion, Troy Burke said he felt safe and happy raising a family in Wollongong.

"It's a good place to have kids," he said.

"It's cheaper than the city, there's lots of parks and it's very close to everything."

Gwyn and Dianne Jones, of Campbelltown, were having a coffee at Belmore Basin. They regularly drive to Wollongong for a relaxing day out, drawn back by the friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

"Everyone seems happy all the time," Ms Jones said.

"You never see anyone angry. If we were going to move somewhere, it would be here."

What makes Wollongong a happy place to live?

Bianca Dye, i98FM: "Life is a lot easier compared to Sydney. Everything is close, the people are friendly, and it’s an incredible community vibe." 

Glen Saville, Hawks legend: "It is an amazing lifestyle living here, a happy medium between the city and the country."

Jacob Timpano, South Coast Wolves: "The beaches in summer, and the relaxed lifestyle; I don’t like the big-city living."

Ryan Park, Member for Keira: "The most important is the community spirit of the Illawarra, but we are also home to beautiful beaches, cafes and restaurants."

Sharon Bird, Member for Cunningham: "The wonderful environment and lifestyle make it such a popular place to live."


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