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Gallup Study Measures Long-Term Life Outcomes of Former Student-Athletes

May 6, 2016

Former college athletes are more likely than their non-athlete counterparts to be thriving in four out of five areas of well-being, according to a research conducted by the Gallup organization. The results are detailed in a report released in February 2016, Understanding Life Outcomes of Former NCAA Student-Athletes.

The research findings are based on the national Gallup-Purdue Index—a comprehensive, nationally representative study of U.S. college graduates with Internet access. The study of nearly 30,000 U.S. adults who had earned a bachelor’s degree at a minimum took place two years ago. As part of the research, Gallup interviewed 1,670 former NCAA student-athletes about their well-being and compared their responses with those of 22,813 non-student-athletes who graduated from the same institutions.

Gallup measured five areas of well-being:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.
  • Social: Having strong and supportive relationships and love in your life.
  • Financial: Effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
  • Community: The sense of engagement you have with the area where you live, liking where you live, and feeling safe and having pride in your community.
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis.

For each area of well-being, responses were categorized as thriving (strong and consistent); struggling (moderate and inconsistent); or suffering (low and inconsistent).

The top-line results:

Purpose: 56% of former student athletes are thriving compared with 48% of non-student-athletes.

Social: 54% of former student athletes are thriving compared with 45% of non-student-athletes.

Community: 51% of former student athletes are thriving compared with 43% of non-student-athletes.

Physical: 41% of former student athletes are thriving compared with 33% of non-student-athletes.

Financial: 38% of former student athletes are thriving compared with 37% of non-student-athletes.

According to Gallup, “Of the five elements, former student-athletes -- like their non-student-athlete counterparts -- are the most likely to be thriving in purpose well-being. This means they like what they do each day and are motivated to achieve their goals. The majority of former student-athletes (56%) are thriving in this element, as are an even higher percentage (62%) of student-athletes who played football or men's basketball. Both groups do significantly better than their non-student-athlete peers -- less than half of whom are thriving in purpose well-being.”

In the area of physical well-being, 41% of former student-athletes are thriving, compared with non-athletes. However, when the responses from those who participated in men’s basketball and football are extracted, the picture is very different. Of those respondents, 28% are thriving in physical well-being, compared with 47% of the respondents who participated in other sports.

The study results suggest that in many of the five areas of well-being, “substantial percentages of former NCAA student-athletes are finding success after they leave the playing field,” Gallup says. “It's entirely possible that former student-athletes possess an innate drive before college that leads them to compete at the highest levels of athletic competition and that this same drive spurs them to succeed in the classroom, the workplace and later in life. But there are certainly many aspects of being a student-athlete that encourage success in work and life -- elements of learning effective teamwork, extreme dedication and focus, building resiliency from losses and setbacks, thriving under pressure and benefiting from mentoring from teammates and coaches.”