The Impact of Education on Happiness

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The report provides a framework for assessing the impact of education on happiness in the United Kingdom. Education is a lifelong process that has become a basic need and a medium through which constructive relationships are constructed. The paper has established two domains of happiness, the subjective and psychological well-being. Under psychological wellbeing, individuals with advanced levels of education have high confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy thereby increasing their level of happiness. On the other hand, subjective domain entails happiness, life satisfaction and economic situation and satisfaction.

The review has obtained that advanced level of education has a positive association with life satisfaction and happiness. However, among the Europeans, progressive level of education leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness as cutting-edge levels of education raises aspirations and expectation beyond real life capabilities. Besides, lower economic situation and happiness have a negative association with happiness and vis-à-vis higher economic status that has a positive connection. Education improves mental stability and increases the level of happiness among the intellects. Moreover, the research findings confirm that education improves the level of happiness through positive subjective, psychological and mental wellbeing based on Abraham Maslow’s Theoretical framework. Therefore, the report provides a clear connection between education and happiness backed by empirical literature.

How Education Impact Happiness in the United Kingdom


            This report provides a summary of the findings obtained from a systematic review of evidence indicating the impact of education on happiness/wellbeing.  Access to quality education is the primary goal of the Department of Education in the United Kingdom (UK), and its impacts on the people determine the progress of any nation. The report addresses the following crucial areas of interest in determining the extent to which education impact happiness.

a) What does the evidence point out about the effect of lifelong education on happiness and wellbeing?

b) What is the impact of education on mental health, life satisfaction and self-efficacy?

The Definition of Wellbeing and Indicators

There exist two philosophical provisions on the nature of wellbeing, which includes subjective and psychological wellbeing. The report investigates wellbeing as a factor that determines the level of happiness that an individual displays after education. Sabates and Hammond (2008) present subjective well-being as a state of happiness achieved through self-assessment of life satisfaction that applies to specific areas of an individual’s life. On the other hand, psychological wellbeing focusses on personal growth, high sense of control and individual purpose in life. Subjective well-being such as life satisfaction and happiness emerged in the late 1950s as an indicator used to monitor the quality of life (Sabates and Hammond 2008). Life satisfaction refers to the perceived proximity from personal aspirations while happiness results from a balance between positive and negative effects. Despite the difference between life satisfaction and happiness, the two terms are used substitutable in the empirical literature.

External life challenges form the basis for the conceptualisation of psychological well-being. Most people face personal challenges as they struggle to function effectively in society after acquiring education. Psychological wellbeing focuses on personal growth, personal autonomy, ability to shape the environment, positive relationships with others, self-acceptance and self-determination (Sabates and Hammond 2008). For this review, the paper focuses on happiness and life satisfaction as pointers of subjective well-being, self-esteem, and self-worth as indicators of psychological well-being. However, Sabates and Hammond (2008) specify the happiness cannot be realised without a stable state of mind where individuals can cope with daily stress. As a result, happiness depends on the physical, social and mental wellbeing of an individual that translates into happiness.

Theoretical Framework

The paper reviews Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a theoretical approach to analyse the impact of education on happiness. Abraham designates that a person may achieve the highest levels of self-actualisation only if the basic needs are fully met (Maslow and Lewis 1987, p.987). Abraham proposes that each level in the satisfaction of the human needs is vital in determining how one progresses to the innovative levels to meet his/her needs. At the foot of the table is physiological needs such as food, sex and sleep. Physiological needs are mandatory for one to realise a happy life free from psychological and social stress (Maslow and Lewis 1987, p.987). Education enables individuals to evaluate and satisfy their needs. Abraham postulate that the level of happiness increases an individual to go through the levels in the pyramid (Maslow and Lewis 1987, p.987). The second level provides an opportunity for individuals to prioritise their physical, social, economic and financial safety. Love, belonging, and self-esteem is essential for the realisation of happiness (McLeod 2007). Education prepares people to prepare adequately for life challenges by learning to love and be loved, promotes collaboration that is essential in boosting psychological well-being thereby leading to self-actualisation. The theory lays a conceptual framework on which instructional modules are constructed to enable a person to achieve the highest levels personal fulfilment associated with happiness.

Empirical Literature Review

The literature starts by providing the impact of education on happiness, followed by psychological happiness and reducing the risk of depression.

Happiness and Life Satisfaction (Subjective Wellbeing)

How do we measure subjective happiness? Studies by Chen and Hou (2018, p.20) indicate that the measure for happiness uses a discrete scale with binary numbers assigned to show the level of happiness on a scale where one can be fully satisfied or unsatisfied. One of the measures of subjective happiness depends on specific continuums such as leisure, family, health, housing and finances among others. Empirical studies by Sabates and Hammond (2008) exploiting data from the United Kingdom indicate that there is a low positive connection between life satisfaction and education as well as between financial position and education. However, an alternative study by Chen and Hou (2018) from Britain and the United States identified a positive correlation between education and happiness. Sabates and Hammond (2008) suggest that the dissatisfaction between life satisfaction and financial situation with education was due to lack of opportunities at higher levels of education, occupational stress and mismatch between job aspirations and expectations. As a result, the following section reviews the empirical evidence concerning the effects of education on the indicators of subjective well-being such as life satisfaction, happiness and economic satisfaction.

            Life Satisfaction

There exist sufficient data on the negative and positive connection between life satisfaction and education. Therefore, it is essential to consider the mediums by which education affects life satisfaction. A study by Helliwell (2002) identified a multivariate regression using personal information from 46 countries. Helliwell (2002) observed a positive association between education and life satisfaction when general life satisfaction was considered. However, the same study underscored that when specific factors of life satisfaction were evaluated against educations, there was a negative correlation between education and life satisfaction. Chen and Hou (2018) also obtained similar results in Germany. Chen and Hou (2018) highlighted that specific factors such as age, demography and socioeconomic variables were insignificant in determining the relationship between education and life satisfaction. Nikolaev (2018) presents that life satisfaction is directly correlated to happiness. Individuals that were fully satisfied were psychologically stable thereby displaying a high degree of happiness.

Sabates and Hammond (2008) utilised the British Household Survey to establish a positive association between education and life satisfaction. The study findings indicated that individuals with advanced and higher levels of education were more satisfied than those with lower educational qualifications. The study father established that the number of years of schooling determined the level of satisfaction. Individuals who have undergone lengthy instructional periods showed higher levels of life satisfaction compared to those with low levels of education. Contrastingly, Nikolaev (2018) established a negative connection between education and life satisfaction. He confirmed that individuals with higher educational qualifications had higher aspirations, which were hardly fulfilled thereby leading to dissatisfactions. Persons with higher educational achievements expect higher incomes (Blanchflower and Oswald 2005, p.312). When income was considered in the analysis, there was a positive correlation between education and life satisfaction. Therefore, higher academic achievements had a positive impact on life satisfaction.

Analysis of data from Switzerland highlighted that middle and higher formal education achievement had a positive connection with life satisfaction (Chen and Hou 2018). Conversely, when Sabates and Hammond (2008) included life aspirations in the analysis, they observed a negative correlation between people with low and high-level educational qualifications. However, there was no difference in the level of life satisfaction among individuals with low level of education and a higher level of education based on aspirations. Further investigation by Ferrante (2007) on channels through which education impacts life satisfaction hypothesised the main channels as access to education and employment opportunities based on skills and how the rewards from such activities match people’s expectations. He also established that education improves an individual’s aspirations beyond real life achievements hence negatively affecting life satisfaction if such expectations are not met. Ferrante (2007) identified health, income, the composition of the household and trust as the channels through which education affects life satisfaction. Education moderates income related happiness. Persons with low levels of education attached happiness on income while those with a higher level of education did not. Research by Helliwell (2003) using World Bank’s World Value Survey highlighted that higher academic achievements were less significant in determining satisfaction although higher marginal utility for additional income was greater among those with a low level of education.


Sabates and Hammond (2008) underscored that there was a positive correlation between happiness and education.  People with the highest level of education were emotionally and psychologically stable hence displaying a high degree of happiness (Hammond 2004, p.552). The data from the European Social Survey indicated that there was a negative correlation between higher levels of education and happiness (Ryff 1989, p.1069). When demographic and economic factors were incorporated in the analysis, Nikolaev (2018) confirmed that higher academic achievement among the people living in the UK increased the level of unhappiness. Consequently, the level of happiness for people with superior qualifications was dependent on average income. People with higher academic achievement had higher career aspirations and expectation than those with low academic achievements. Failure to meet these aspirations increased the level of stress leading to depression.

Another study by Nikolaev (2018) based on age revealed that at every particular point in educational life, individuals with higher academic achievements are happier than those with low accomplishments. Besides, Helliwell (2003) observed that there was no specific trend in the relationship between the level of education and happiness. Additionally, there is no research explaining the difference in happiness among groups of people with different academic achievements. Educational status is not a determinant of happiness, but the factors and benefits associated with higher economic achievements like competitive remuneration packages, job security and high income may determine the level of happiness and not education alone (Vahedi and Nazari 2011). Although socioeconomic status may create stability and increase happiness, there is no research to support the relationship between income levels and happiness. An investigation about education and happiness, wealth and health and other life circumstances reveal that the positive connection between education and happiness reached a maximum at intermediate levels of qualifications and after that became parabolic (Hartog and Oosterbeek 1998).

Economic Situation and Satisfaction

The analysis of the three measures of an economic situation such as pay satisfaction, job satisfaction and financial situation showed a negative correlation with education (Ryff 1989, p.1069). The study by Ryff (1989) observed that there was a positive association between financial situation and education as well as negative relationship between job satisfaction and level of education. Sabates and Hammond (2008) highlighted that the primary reason why there was a negative association between education and job satisfaction was created by higher job aspirations that are sometimes not met. People with higher levels of education get competitive positions within their organisations, and such positions bring autonomy and control that may affect the mental well-being of a person. British Household Survey indicates that junior employees have lower expectations and realise higher job satisfaction compared to those with senior employees who report high levels of job dissatisfaction (Chen and Hou 2018, p.3). Besides, Balchflower and Oswald (2007) observed that there was no positive relationship between stress at work and after work with levels of education.

Psychological Wellbeing

This section details the evidence from quantitative research about the relationship between education and psychological wellbeing especially self-efficacy and self-esteem. Hammond and Feinstein (2006) realised that there is a positive connection between schooling years and self-efficacy, self-esteem, optimism and happiness among people living in the UK. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of individual participation in education in the UK revealed that learning increases self-confidence, boost self-esteem and enhances a person’s capacity to handle daily issues hence increasing their chances of happiness (Blanchflower and Oswald 2007, p.315). Hamond established that adult participation in the courses offered at higher levels of education instil confidence in people to handle daily issues and play an active role in the socialisation process. Consequently, he also confirms that education builds self-confidence, enhance self-esteem, facilitate understanding, and improves that capacity for independent thinking, communication and well-being.

Depression (Mental Disorder)

Research by Sabates and Hammond (2008) confirms that higher educational accomplishments reduce the risk of depression. People with advanced skills understands the importance of stress management and that people with higher educational attainments have profound emotional and physical distress. Therefore, there is a positive correlation between education and depression. Sabates and Hammond (2008) observed that higher qualifications substantially reduced the risk of adult depression by 6%.


The relied on a systematic and empirical review of the literature to arrive at its findings. The paper analysed the previous works by researchers from the Centre of Research for Wider Benefits of Learning (Feinstein et al. 2006). I also used Google Scholar, Elsevier Science Direct, EBSCOhost and JSTOR to obtain information.

Findings/Data Description

The systematic review of the literature established the following findings relating to the impact of education on happiness.

v Subjective Wellbeing

(a) Higher levels of education increase the degree of happiness

(b) Low levels of education are associated with a low degree of happiness.

(c) Higher levels of education increase individual aspirations and expectations thereby reducing self-satisfaction.

(d) There is no relationship between the varying levels of happiness and educational achievements.

(e) Job dissatisfaction was high among people with advanced educational accomplishment.

(f) The effects of education on happiness depends on psychological and subjective well-being.

(g) People with higher educational achievement are happy and have higher satisfaction level compared to those with low education levels.

(h) Studies from the UK reveal that people with higher educational qualifications highly dissatisfied and unhappy than counterparts with low academic achievements

v Psychological wellbeing

(a) Research evidence confirms that people with advanced academic attainment have higher self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy than those with low achievement.

(b) Adult education boosts psychological well-being.

(c) Education does not boost self-esteem and self-efficacy of all people.

v Mental Disorder

a) Higher education achievements lower the risk of depression.

b) Education protects individuals through various channels such as health, financial situation and trust.

Discussion and Conclusion

            First higher levels of education increase the level of happiness. Research by Sabates and Hammond (2008) indicates that individuals with higher academic achievement have increased access to excellent employment opportunities that increase their income and confidence in meeting daily demands. Secondly, individuals with low levels of education demonstrated low levels of happiness because life demands create pressure on them that they may not be able to counter. Thirdly, higher levels of education increase individual aspirations and expectations thereby reducing life satisfaction. Research by Ryff (1989) suggests that education raises an individual’s level of aspiration and expectations thereby creating a great demand which may not be possible to accomplish under normal circumstances hence increasing the level of dissatisfaction.

            Fourth, there is no relationship between the varying levels of happiness and educational achievements. A research gap exists in this area because of inadequate information on the interlink between the different levels of happiness with educational achievements (Hammond and Feinstein 2006). The literature does not provide a succinct explanation for the varying levels of happiness among different levels of education. Although job satisfaction improved with advanced academic achievement in other countries like the United States, people with higher academic attainment in the UK demonstrate a high level of job dissatisfaction and unhappiness (Chen and Hou 2018, p.5).

            Besides, research evidence confirms that people with the most suitable academic attainment have higher self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy than those with low achievement. The curricula offered at the institutions of higher learning and team collaboration when performing specific instructional activities build self-confidence. Chen and Hou (2018) outline that self-efficacy and self-esteem are realised through great academic performances. Moreover, Helliwell (2003) highlights that adult education eliminates psychological, physical and emotional distress among adults thereby creating stability in thoughts and increasing the level of happiness when compared to adults without any form of education. In addition, Hammond (2004) observes that education is instrumental in enhancing the level of happiness although it does improve self-efficacy and self-esteem of all people due to individual limitations. These notwithstanding, education lowers the risk of depression among people with higher educational achievements (Blanchflower and Oswald 2005, p.310). Research by Sabates and Hammond (2008) indicates that people with advanced education are good for stress and anxiety management because of the rigorous training that increases their adaptability. In conclusion, the paper has established that education has both negative and positive impacts on happiness.


            Growing up in the city of London exposed to me to many life opportunities that I felt were essential to living a meaningful life. As a child, I was free from psychological and social stress because family members protected me. Besides, I had higher expectations during Christmas and new year holidays as they provided an opportunity to experience new events and things that were life fulfilling. However, when I began middle-level schooling, a lot changed in my life. The school environment provided me with an opportunity to interact with my peers in the absence of my immediate family members. Forming and sustaining new relationships was stressful and challenging. Despite the challenges of getting into a new environment with generous opportunities, I was able to learn that education was a leveller and gave each of us an opportunity to develop his/her talents and build relationships.

            First, the group activities provided me with an opportunity to know members of my class, their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. We happily performed the outdoor and indoor activities with the primary goals of pleasing our teachers and making them happy too. Intense competition within the class provided an opportunity for identification of areas that need further development. However, after going through the basic and final stages of higher education, I have realised that education has improved my psychological, physical and emotional abilities. Today, I can form and sustain relationships, agree and disagree constructively in debates while respecting each person’s opinion even if they may not be consistent with my expectations. As such, I have acquired communication, interpersonal and collaborative skills that have proven essential in dealing with stressful situations comfortably. After a thorough evaluation of my current emotional and psychological state with those during the commencement of my education, I can confidently confirm that education encourages healthy mental, emotional, physical and psychological growth by building self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy, traits that are responsible for increasing the level of happiness.


Blanchflower, D.G. and Oswald, A.J., (2005). Happiness and the Human development index: the paradox of Australia. Australian Economic Review, 38(3), pp.307-318.

Chen, W.H. and Hou, F., 2018. The Effect of Unemployment on Life Satisfaction: A Cross-National Comparison Between Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Applied Research in Quality of Life, pp.1-24.

Feinstein, L., Sabates, R., Anderson, T.M., Sorhaindo, A. and Hammond, C., (2006). The Effects of Education on Health: Concepts, evidence and policy implications. A review for the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI). Paris: CERI.

Ferrante, F., (2007). Does human capital bring life satisfaction? Human capital, expectations and life satisfaction. Mimeo, Faculty of Economics, University of Cassino. Working Paper available at SSRN: http://ssrn. com/abstract= 1020571.

Hammond, C. and Feinstein, L., (2006). Are those who flourished at school healthier adults? What role for adult education?[Wider Benefits of Learning Research Report No. 17]. Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning.

Hammond, C., (2004). Impacts of lifelong learning upon emotional resilience, psychological and mental health: fieldwork evidence. Oxford Review of Education, 30(4), pp.551-568.

Hartog, J. and Oosterbeek, H. (1998). Health, wealth and happiness: why pursue a higher education?. Economics of Education Review, 17(3), pp.245-256.

Helliwell, J.F., 2003. How's life? Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being. Economic modelling, 20(2), pp.331-360.

Maslow, A. and Lewis, K.J., (1987). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Salenger Incorporated, 14, p.987.

McLeod, S., (2007). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology, 1.

Nikolaev, B., (2018). Does Higher Education Increase Hedonic and Eudaimonic Happiness?. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(2), pp.483-504.

Ryff, C.D., 1989. Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 57(6), p.1069.

Sabates, R. and Hammond, C., (2008). The impact of lifelong learning on happiness and well-being.

Vahedi, S. and Nazari, M.A., 2011. The relationship between self-alienation, spiritual well-being, economic situation and satisfaction of life: A structural equation modeling approach. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 5(1), pp.64-73.

August 14, 2023

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