Explore the links between place of living, social participation and wellbeing at older age using data from large-scale panel surveys covering Australia and a range of other countries. The central hypothesis is that environmental conditions, captured in terms of housing and neighbourhood conditions, can have independent and potentially cumulative effects on older people’s opportunities for playing their part in society and, ultimately, achieving personal well-being and independence.


  • The project’s main innovations are in the cross-national comparative design which incorporates macro, meso and micro-level variables and in the use of advanced analytic methods to model the dynamic processes behind the observed outcomes.
  • The research will benefit academics working in areas of housing, social exclusion and older age in disciplines such as sociology, social policy, political science and social work; the results will also have practical implications for policy makers.


  • Found evidence of a considerable penalty associated with living in disadvantaged housing and disadvantaged areas on some of the most critical aspects of social participation in older age as well as on overall wellbeing of older persons.
  • Demonstrated that the quality of one’s living environment plays a significant role in shaping social participation and wellbeing in older age.
  • Certain groups of older people, such as those over 80, the sick and disabled, those living alone, and the migrants from non-English speaking countries, are particularly at risk of poor social contacts, more limited social support, and lower wellbeing.
  • Demonstrated that individuals with different characteristics may rate the same objective housing conditions in a very different way.
  • Highlighted the importance of viewing wellbeing as a complex, multi-faceted construct.

Project team

  • Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski (UQ) - Project leader

Duration: January 2011–January 2013

Partners: The University of Queensland

Funding: The University of Queensland

Contact: Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski (w.tomaszewski@uq.edu.au)

Publications and reports

Tomaszewski, W. (2013) Living Environment, Social Participation and Wellbeing in Older Age: The Relevance of Housing and Local Area Disadvantage, Journal of Population Ageing, DOI: 10.1007/s12062-012-9077-5.

Tomaszewski, W., Meiklejohn, C., Smith, A., Haynes, M. (2013) Residential mobility in later life and its links with housing conditions and wellbeing of older people: a longitudinal analysis of HILDA. Fremantle: 7th Australasian Housing Researchers’ Conference.

Tomaszewski , W., Boreham, P., Jones, A. and Povey,  J. (2012) Living environment and wellbeing: the effects of housing and local area disadvantage – paper presented at the 12th Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference in Melbourne, Australia

Tomaszewski, W. (2012) Living environment and wellbeing in later life: exploring cross-national differences in Europe – paper presented at the 2012 Spring Meeting of the ISA Research Committee 28 on Social Stratification and Mobility in Hong Kong

Tomaszewski, W. (2012) The impact of housing quality on social participation and wellbeing of older Australians  – paper presented at the 6th Australasian Housing Researchers' Conference 2012 in Adelaide, Australia

Tomaszewski, W. (2011) The quality of the place of living, social participation and well-being in older age: exploring the cross-national variation in Europe – paper presented at the EUROCORES-HumVIB conference in Berlin, Germany

Tomaszewski, W. (2011) The quality of the place of living, social participation and well-being in older age: the evidence from HILDA – paper presented at the 2011 HILDA Survey Research Conference in Melbourne, Australia

Tomaszewski, W. And Perales, F. (2013) Who Settles for Less? Subjective Dispositions, Objective Circumstances, and Housing Satisfaction, Social Indicators Research.
DOI: 10.1007/s11205-013-0420-x

Povey, J., Boreham, P. and Tomaszewski, W. (2013) The Development of a New Multi-faceted Model of Social Wellbeing: Does income level make a difference?, Journal of Sociology.
DOI: 10.1177/1440783313507491

Boreham, P., Povey, J. and Tomaszewski, W. (2013). An alternative measure of social wellbeing: analysing the key conceptual and statistical components of quality of life. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 48(2): 151-172