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Mental toughness and life satisfaction

In another study carried out by Amber Hardwick, a student at the University of Hull, we were also interested in the relationship between mental toughness and students' life satisfaction. Life satisfaction is an important construct within positive psychology and is considered to be an aspect of subjective wellbeing. The components of subjective wellbeing are often considered synonymous with the term “happiness”. Importantly, life satisfaction and happiness precede a diverse range of positive behavioural, psychological, and social outcomes (e.g., Lyubornirsky, King & Diener, 2005). Low life satisfaction can also precede the onset of depression and psychological disorders.

In the study 129 undergraduate psychology students completed the Mental Toughness Questionnaire (MTQ48). They also supplied their university exam results to date (as students were from all years of the degree course these were from between one and five semesters of study). Finally, students completed the Satisfaction with Life Questionnaire (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985). This is comprised of five statements including “In most ways my life is ideal” and students responded to each statement on a 7-point scale ranging from 1-Strongly disagree to 7-Strongly agree. We examined the correlations
between mental toughness, average grades, and life satisfaction. These are shown below in Table 2.

Each component of mental toughness, as well as total mental toughness, was closely associated with both attainment and life satisfaction. It is important to note that the relationships between mental toughness and attainment were much stronger than those observed in the previous study. This could possibly be attributed to the timing of the study. Student's completed the mental toughness and life satisfaction scales in the same testing session, and supplied their exam results to date at the same time. Considering all of this information together may have influenced the way in which students responded to questionnaire items. In addition, the closer relationships between mental toughness and attainment could also be attributed to considering grades from the entire university course. Over the three years of a degree, students are increasingly expected to engage in independent study and manage their own learning. It could be that mental toughness is particularly important for the later stages of a degree course.

Of particular interest to the present study there were also significant relationships between each aspect of mental toughness and life satisfaction. The correlations were particularly high for confidence in abilities, total mental toughness, and life control. These findings are consistent with previous suggestions that life satisfaction is related to self-esteem and self-worth (e.g. Diener & Diener, 1995) and also findings that mental toughness is related to emotional wellbeing including depression (Gerber, Brand, Feldmeth, Lang, Elliot, Holsboer-Trachsler et al., 2013). The results further suggest that each component of mental

Table 2. Correlations between mental toughness, attainment, and life satisfaction.


Life satisfaction







Control of emotion



Control of life



Confidence in abilities



Interpersonal confidence



Total mental toughness



Note: ** p < 0.01, * p < 0.05.

toughness may serve as a construct to help us understand subjective wellbeing.

These findings suggest that developing mental toughness not only has the potential to improve attainment and attendance in Higher Education, but that it also has the potential to improve students' happiness and wellbeing, which are related to a number of important developmental outcomes. Future research would benefit from exploring the effect of mental toughness interventions, some of which we have described in this book, on university students' attainment and performance but also on students' life satisfaction and components of wellbeing.


The studies presented in this chapter capture just some of the outcomes which are related to mental toughness; higher levels of attainment and attendance in undergraduate programmes, greater life satisfaction, and increased opportunities for employability.

Mental toughness may also be important for other aspects of Higher Education, such as the ease of the transition into university life, and the extent to which students form close friendships with their peers. Through future research we hope to develop a more detailed understanding of how and why mental toughness is important within Higher Education.

However, it is clear from the findings presented in this chapter, that if mental toughness can be developed or improved through appropriate interventions then there are many possibilities for improving the educational outcomes and employment opportunities of today's undergraduates.

Given the importance of mental toughness in several domains, including sport, occupations, wellbeing, and education, mental toughness appears to be a ubiquitous concept with implications for success.

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