South Australia: The State of Wellbeing

The SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre aims to dramatically improve the community's ability to build mental health assets at scale. 

Measuring the wellbeing of nations has emerged as an important addition to understanding wealth and social progress, transcending the simple economic activity measurement of gross national product.

Systematically building human wellbeing and resilience is the logical next frontier in a modern society. 

The cost of mental illness in Australia is estimated to be $190 billion a year, equivalent to 12% of our gross domestic product (GDP). Currently, 1 in 4 of our young people suffers from mental illness in any given year, and in Australia we lose 9 million working days from it annually. It is the key issue for our population, our economy, and our collective quality of life.

Over 14,000 South Australians were introduced to the science of positive psychology by Adelaide Thinker in Residence Professor Martin Seligman in 2012-2014. This has unleashed a state-wide movement to build wellbeing and resilience in the population.

The approach is based upon the use of positive psychology in the successful resilience project  [1] in the US Army 2008-15 which reduced catastrophic thinking and drug and alcohol use, in post military deployment.

Our research projects are already being conducted in many and varied cohorts across the life course, including the auto manufacturing workforce affected by GM Holden’s withdrawal from South Australia, disadvantaged young people, and the ageing population living in community and residential care. 

The Centre combines measurement and intervention to build upon existing research, and produce data and new knowledge about the science of positive psychology in the prevention of mental illness at the population level. Many South Australian schools and workplaces have already begun to implement interventions proven to reduce mental and physical illness and improve health and wellbeing, with many companies, organisations, aged care facilities, manufacturing and government departments soon to follow.