Australians living in the outback and small rural communities are much happier than their city counterparts - with Sydney being the gloomiest place in the country - research showed Thursday.
Two communities in the red-dirt reaches of the north-central "Top End", each with a population of fewer than 17,000 people, were ranked among Australia's most satisfied in the latest Australian Unity Wellbeing Index report.
Places of great natural beauty, such as Kangaroo Island, off the state of South Australia, and farming areas with a strong sense of community and ties to the land scored most highly, said report author Bob Cummins.
"Wellbeing is higher in country areas than it is in city areas," Cummins, a psychology professor from Deakin University, told AFP.
"The major driving force behind this is (the) sense of community people get when they live in country towns. People connect more to each other and that's very hard to find in cities, very hard indeed."
Pride in the local environment was an important factor in happiness, said Cummins, and that was reflected among the top-ranking areas.
Litchfield, a Northern Territories paradise of tropical wildlife, parks and waterfalls, and Barkly, the desert area north of the world-famous rock Uluru, both made the top five.
Kangaroo Island, a wildlife refuge which is one-third protected bushland and beaches, was also listed. All the top five regions had populations less than 40,000.
The nation's biggest city, Sydney, was the unhappiest place in Australia, with the inner city and suburbs to the south most troubled, Cummins said.
These were some of the most racially troubled areas in Australia, with high levels of multiculturalism.
The research showed wellbeing began to slide when the number of people in a community not born in Australia exceeded 40 percent, Cummins said.
"This appears to be caused by a lack of connection," he said.
The report examined surveys of 35,000 Australians taken between 2002 and 2008.