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Students in the north less happy than those in the south


University students in the north of Britain are significantly less happy than their counterparts in the south, according to new data released today.

The Student Happiness Index, published by Endsleigh Insurance in partnership with the National Union of Students (NUS), shows that only 18% of first years in northern regions class themselves as happy – a figure that rises to 30% for those in the south.

In fact, the happiness scores for each region – where the percentage of students who consider themselves unhappy is subtracted from the percentage who say they’re happy – show students in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West are hardest hit.

Scottish undergraduates (19% happy, 48% unhappy) get a score of -29, while those in Yorkshire (14% happy, 38% unhappy) and the North West (20% happy, 43% unhappy) both score -23. Even the top scoring region of Wales – where 29% of students say they’re happy and 37% say they’re not – is still in a ‘happiness deficit’ of -8.

The study also reveals the factors that are causing students concern and anxiety. In Scotland, Brexit is the number one issue, with nearly two thirds (62%) of students saying it is taking its toll on their wellbeing. In the North West, the Black Lives Matter movement and racial inequality are causing most concern, with three fifths (60%) of undergraduates saying they’re affected. More broadly, female safety was selected as a concern by at least 45% of students in every region, while 46% overall said the biggest impact of Covid-19 had been on their mental health.

Alison Meckiffe, Chief Executive Officer at Endsleigh Insurance, said:

“Our research shows that, across the board, many university students are struggling with a crisis of optimism and happiness. For first years, the problem gets worse the further north in the country you go.  

“Something needs to change. What was once the best time of a young person’s life is becoming a period that is beset by stress and uncertainty. Students need as much support as they can get, and that’s why the launch of the MyEndsleigh app – which gives undergraduates access to 24/7 wellbeing support from trained mental health professionals -is a big step in the right direction.”

Larissa Kennedy, President at National Union of Students, said:

“Endsleigh’s Student Happiness Index lays bare issues that we knew were bubbling under the surface. There have been massive issues with things like racism and sexual harassment on campus for a few years, and that’s before Covid-19 exacerbated the mental health issues and financial insecurity that many students were already facing.

“Our advice to students is not to suffer in silence. Get involved with your student union, reach out for support when you need it, and remember that you have the power to help re-shape higher education. Together with partners including Endsleigh, we can make it a safer, happier, more rewarding experience for everyone.”

Other findings from the Student Happiness Index research show that:

  • More students (24%) are excited by the return of face-to-face lessons than travelling abroad (22%) or partying (9%)
  • Students in the north are more concerned about getting value from their courses than those in the south
  • Students in the East Midlands are most driven to study by a desire for financial security in future (29% vs average of 23%)

Endsleigh has prioritised student wellbeing and protection for over 55 years, having been founded by the National Union of Students in 1965.  The company has grown to work with more than 500 education establishments across nurseries, schools, universities, colleges, student unions, language schools, international students, and not-for-profit organisations.

As a response to the surge in mental wellbeing concerns for students and education establishments, in 2020 Endsleigh developed a dedicated Student Wellbeing proposition which now provides wellbeing support to 400,000 people. In 2021, a dedicated student app, MyEndsleigh, was launched to address key student concerns of wellbeing, protection and rewards.

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