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Survey reveals better quality jobs align with higher wellbeing

Graduates who are more positive about the design and nature of the work they do are more likely to be happy, as well as to report their life to be worthwhile and satisfying.

Graduate wellbeing: How does the design and nature of work relate to life evaluations and present emotions?

Researchers from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency)1 found that graduates who highly rated the design and nature of their work2 in the Graduate Outcomes survey were more likely to say that they were happy, satisfied with their lives, and that their own activities were worthwhile.

The research used data from 217,305 graduates from 2017/18 and 2018/19 who responded to the survey’s ‘graduate voice’ questions about their jobs, standardised questions about their wellbeing3, and disclosed their salary.

The study found a positive relationship between HESA’s composite measure of the design and nature of work (combining an assessment of whether their work is meaningful, uses the skills they learned in education, and fits with their future plans) and three wellbeing measures, including the question “How happy did you feel yesterday?”. 

The positive association between the design and nature of work and wellbeing was stronger for the questions that asked, “How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?” and “To what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?” compared to the question on happiness.

As other factors may also correlate with wellbeing and how graduates perceive the design/nature of their jobs, the study also controlled for a range of demographic, study, and employment characteristics. This included salary, as higher earnings were found to be associated with greater wellbeing among those earning less than approximately £23,500 per annum, though wellbeing remained fairly constant after this threshold irrespective of the salary level of graduates. The researchers controlled for the day of the week that the survey was taken, having previously found4 that respondents report higher levels of happiness at the weekend.

Principal Researcher Tej Nathwani, said:

“Increasing wellbeing and improving the quality of work available to citizens is a policy objective across all nations of the UK. This study aims to play a part in advancing knowledge in this field by being the first to look at how an aspect of employment quality, as defined following the Taylor Review, correlates with different measures of wellbeing."

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Notes for editors: 

  1. HESA is now part of Jisc. Jisc is now the data controller of personal data previously controlled by HESA. Privacy information on the HESA website has been updated.
  2. See New statistical measure of the design and nature of work developed from Graduate Outcomes data.
  3. Subjective wellbeing questions in the Graduate Outcomes survey align with those currently asked by the ONS in various surveys.
  4. See Survey indicates that we really are happier at the weekend.
  5. HESA supports the advancement of higher education across all nations of the UK through the data it collects, assures and disseminates. We undertake research to advance public knowledge and understanding of UK higher education, and to improve our own outputs in the public interest.
  6. Jisc cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties. 
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