Only 1 in 10 College Graduates Are Completely ‘Happy’

How does one measure happiness? It’s a difficult measure, as people can be happy at certain times, and unhappy at others. The change in state — between happy and unhappy — can happen pretty quickly. Even from one moment to the next, a person can go from smiling and laughing to feeling down in the dumps, especially if they are having fun and all of the sudden, they hear some sort of bad news.

Because happiness is somewhat subjective, we often hear terms like “engagement” or “satisfaction” used to describe and measure happiness with work or school. We may also hear terms like “utility” or “well-being.” At the end of the day, these terms are all centered around a similar theme — the degree to which a person feels positive (or happy) or negative (or unhappy) about a certain “something,” whatever it may be.

Gallup recently published its 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index report, which studies more than 30,000 grads across the U.S. and in a nutshell, it examines (among other things) how happy college graduates are with their lives. “Together, Gallup and Purdue created an index that examines the long-term success of graduates…This index provides insight into the relationship between the college experience and whether college graduates have great jobs and great lives,” explains the report’s description.

Overall, the index found that nearly nine out of 10 grads said they are happy with their lives, rating their current lives at an average rate of 7.4 out of 10. However, only around one in 10 grads (11%) are thriving in all five elements of well-being — purpose well-being, social well-being, community well-being, financial well-being, and physical well-being.

How happy are you? Let’s see how you stack up against the grads who participated in the survey. You can also find out how to increase your odds of happiness on the following pages.

% of Grads Thriving in All 5 Elements of Happiness by Decade

Data from 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The 5 elements of happiness

If you have a sense of purpose well-being, this means you like what you do each day, you feel a sense of accomplishment, and you learn or do something unique and interesting on a regular basis. Purpose well-being is the area where most grads (54%) thrive. Gallup’s research has found that people who bloom in this area tend to be more well-rounded and successful overall.

If you have a strong support network of friends and family who are behind you and the decisions you make, this means you are thriving in the area of social well-being, like 49% of grads surveyed. This is the area where college graduates are the second-most likely to flourish.

Having a sense of community well-being means that you not only like where you live, but you also actively work toward improving your community. Those who prosper in this area have received some sort of reward or recognition in the past year for improving the area they live in. Only 47% of grads fit this bill.

Financial well-being measures your financial stability. Those who thrive in this area have enough money to meet their goals and do everything they want to, and they haven’t worried about money in the past seven days. Overall, 42% of grads are flourishing financially.

Lastly, having a sense of physical well-being means that you are healthy and energetic. Those who blossom in this area have felt active and productive every day for the past seven days. Only around one-third of grads (35%) fall into this category.

chart by Erika Rawes

Increasing the odds

The Gallup-Purdue Index Report found certain qualities, attributes, and situations increase a graduate’s likelihood of thriving in all five areas of happiness. In the chart above, you may notice that workplace engagement is a large contributing factor, and those who are engaged at work are 4.6 times more likely to thrive in the five areas of well-being. Those who feel like college prepared for them for life also appear to be more likely to flourish in the five areas. Even things that seem insignificant, like having a college professor who cared, and working on a long-term project can make a difference.

So, how happy are you? Would you say that you’re thriving in all five areas of well-being?

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