Friday feeling: well-being survey responses ‘differ on weekends’

Graduates report feeling happier on Saturdays and Sundays, skewing findings for researchers trying to measure well-being

September 21, 2022
Happy students

Graduates report higher levels of happiness when answering survey questions on a weekend, according to an analysis by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

The data body identified significant fluctuations in answers to the well-being questions in its Graduate Outcomes survey – taken by 334,095 graduates between 2017 and 2019 – depending on the day of the week that the respondent filled it in.

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 while graduates who answered on a Saturday gave the next highest average score, followed by those who answered on a Monday.

Participants 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?” when answering the survey on a weekend, although the differences compared with those who answered on a weekday were smaller.

Hesa said that the study was the first in the UK to identify how well-being fluctuates on a day-to-day basis and backs up the findings of a similar study conducted in the US.

The body noted that measuring the well-being of a population quantitatively is becoming increasingly important in policymaking, pointing to the ambition included in the government’s Levelling Up White Paper to improve well-being in every area of the UK by 2030, which included a commitment to publish regular statistics to enable progress to be tracked. Measuring student well-being is also seen as vital after studies indicated that the pandemic exacerbated mental health difficulties among campus populations. 

Hesa’s findings indicate that broader questions that ask a participant to evaluate their overall satisfaction in life may be more useful when trying to measure well-being compared with questions about recent emotions, which can be more changeable.

Principal researcher Tej Nathwani said the research “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 well-being, 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,” he said.

“Our next research will look at the relationship between well-being and these factors which describe the design and nature of work.”

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