How can schools support students’ happiness? Researchers define happiness as frequently feeling positive emotions and having an enduring sense of overall life satisfaction.1,2 Researchers have studied a variety of school factors that promote happiness, including academic support from teachers3, emotional support from teachers and peers4, and a school culture that supports self-esteem.5,6

Eton College


As part of a wellbeing initiative at Eton College, RSI conducted a study on happiness among students at the school. The study looked at developmental trends in happiness among the full student body at Eton, consisting of boys in years 9-13.

Our results reveal that students at Eton tend to get happier as they advance through the year levels at the school. This finding is unexpected, as previous research on happiness has shown happiness typically declines throughout adolescence. 

Given this surprising finding, we conducted a second phase of research to take a deeper look at what aspects of the Eton experience contribute to students’ happiness throughout their years at the school. Our findings suggest that the following four factors support students' happiness at Eton: 

  • a system of social support from the school community,
  • autonomy in pursuing individual interests,
  • feelings of competence through achievements in diverse domains, and
  • a deep sense of gratitude for the vast opportunities that the school offers.


St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Happiness and Academic Achievement

RSI is collaborating with the The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) to carry out research on happiness at the school. In our first study on happiness, we measured happiness, motivation, social relationships, and academic achievement among students in grades 4-12 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

Results show that happiness is statistically significantly related to motivation and academic achievement. In addition, findings reveal that the strongest predictor of happiness is students’ social relationships. To learn more, read Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Usable Knowledge article on this research project!

Building on this initial study, RSI is currently collaborating with the CTTL on a controlled experimental study that will evaluate the impact of a happiness intervention on St. Andrew's students’ happiness and academic achievement. Check back for the results from this exciting study!


  1. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55, 34-43.

  2. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 123, 276-302.

  3. Griffith, J. (2002). A multilevel analysis of the relation of school learning and social environments to minority achievement in public elementary schools. The Elementary School Journal, 102(5), 349–366.

  4. Griffith, 2002; Natvig, G. K., Albrektsen, G., & Qvarnstrøm, U. (2003). Associations between psychosocial factors and happiness among school adolescents. International journal of nursing practice, 9(3), 166-175.

  5. Huebner, E. S., & Gilman, R. (2006). Students who like and dislike school. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 1(2), 139-150; Natvig, Albrektsen & Qvarnstrøm, 2003.

  6. Huebner & Gilman 2006; Samdal, O., Wold, B., & Bronis, M. (1999). Relationship between students' perceptions of school environment, their satisfaction with school and perceived academic achievement: An international study. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 10(3), 296-320.