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The #StudentHappinessIndex, undertaken by @Endsleigh Insurance in partnership with the National Union of Students (@NUSUK), is the first research project of its kind to delve into the concerns of students. Today marks the release of its first edition, with subsequent studies to be released annually.

Student happiness declines after the first year of study

Undergraduate university students across the UK become less happy after their first year of study, according to a new report released today.


The Student Happiness Index report confirmed that undergraduates were largely unhappy this year. When asked to rate their contentment on a scale of 0 to 10, 40% of students scored themselves in the lowest bracket of between 0 and 3. In fact, the average life satisfaction score for the students surveyed was 5.9 out of 10, significantly lower than the national average of 7.1*. Furthermore, only a third (33%) of undergraduates said they were optimistic about life after university.

The report also categorises students into four groups based on their happiness and optimism levels: Flourish, Fortunate, Falter and Flounder. Over half (53%) of all first-years are classed as ‘Floundering’ because they score low for both happiness and optimism, a figure that rises to 66% for those in the second year or beyond. 

Mental wellbeing is the primary concern of students, hugely influenced by the pandemic, female safety and racial inequality

The pandemic has had a negative impact on student wellbeing in the past year. For undergraduates, 46% said the biggest impact of the Covid-19 crisis has been on their mental health, while just 11% said it was that the impact on their freedom and personal choice.

Meanwhile, the murder of Sarah Everard has also been a huge source of anxiety, with 70% of female undergraduates concerned about their safety. The Black Lives Matter movement and racial equality was another big concern (53%) along with climate change (51%) for all undergraduate students.

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

“The UK higher education system has a long-standing reputation of being one of the best in the world, but these figures are hugely concerning. More needs to be done to support undergraduates, particularly after they leave the sanctum of halls in the first year.

“As a priority, we will work with our partners at the National Union of Students to ensure we provide undergraduates with the tools they need to help them flourish in higher education. The launch of the My Endsleigh app means students will have access to 24/7 wellbeing support from trained mental health professionals, so students have the support they need when they need it most.”

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

“As it stands, the University system needs to do more to support its students. The Student Happiness Index shows that happiness declines after the first year of study, it’s a wake-up call for the sector.

“We must accept that the pandemic has thrust student welfare and happiness into the limelight and do more to support them, including greater investment in social support structures, predominantly for those in private rented accommodation.”

Endsleigh has prioritised student wellbeing and protection for over 55 years, having been founded by the National Union of Student in 1965.  The company has grown to work with more than 800 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 400k student lives. In 2021 a dedicated student app, My Endsleigh, was launched to address key student concerns of wellbeing, protection and rewards.

About the Student Happiness Index report

In partnership with the national union of students (NUS), Endsleigh brings to you the first annual student happiness Index. 2,300 students took part the “Happiness Index” survey in June 2021. It’s the first survey of its kind to really delve into the concerns of students and identify who “flounders” and “flourishes” at university. There’s been lots of talk about the impact of Covid on mental health so Endsleigh wanted to get under the skin of why students struggled. The results were weighted to ensure they were representative of the student population. This survey will be repeated annually, so that we can index happiness to track how students feel with the easing of restrictions next year and beyond.

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