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Survey indicates that we really are happier at the weekend

Asked about present emotions in the Graduate Outcomes survey, graduates surveyed on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays were more likely to say that they had been happy the day before.

Ready for the weekend? How data relating to the Graduate Outcomes survey process can be used in assessing the validity of subjective wellbeing information

For the first time, researchers have used a UK based study to show how responses to questions about different measures of wellbeing are linked to the day of the week when the questions are asked. HESA researchers found that positive responses to questions about graduates’ current levels of happiness were more likely to be associated with answering at the weekend than positive responses to questions about how worthwhile or satisfying they find their lives.

The research made use of the Graduate Outcomes survey which asks graduates about their activities and wellbeing 15 months after completing a higher education course. Graduate Outcomes is the biggest annual social survey in the UK targeting over 700,000 graduates each year. This new research used data from 334,095 graduates from 2017/18 and 2018/19 who responded to the survey’s questions about wellbeing.

When graduates were asked ‘How happy did you feel yesterday?’ on a scale of 0 to 10, the highest average scores were given by those who took the survey on a Sunday. Graduates who answered on a Saturday gave the next highest average score followed by those who answered on a Monday.

Although graduates also gave higher average scores for the questions ‘How satisfied are you with life nowadays?’ and ‘To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’ if they answered the survey on a weekend, the difference between the weekday and weekend average scores was much smaller than for the question about happiness.

The results are in line with findings from similar research conducted in the United States. Principal Researcher Tej Nathwani, said:

“Compared with life evaluations, we see a stronger association between day of the week and happiness, which aligns with what theory predicts. This provides support to the validity of the data we are collecting. One of the unique aspects of the Graduate Outcomes survey is the inclusion of questions on subjective wellbeing, as well as asking graduates about the extent to which they believe their activities are meaningful, utilise their skills and are in line with their aspirations. Our next research will look at the relationship between wellbeing and these factors which describe the design and nature of work.”

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  • Wellbeing questions in the Graduate Outcomes survey align with those currently asked by the ONS in various surveys.
  • HESA’s core mission is to support 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.
  • HESA cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties. 


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