Monday, November 29

Study Links Too Much Free Time To A Reduced Feeling Of Well-Being | Psychology

The Goldilocks lesson, that one can have too much of a good thing, even when it comes to the size of a chair, has been applied in fields ranging from astrobiology to economics. Now, it seems that it may even rule our free time.

Researchers have found that although subjective well-being levels initially increase as leisure time increases, the trend does not necessarily hold for very high levels of leisure.

“The sweet spot is a moderate amount of free time,” said Dr. Marissa Sharif, a study co-author from the University of Pennsylvania. “We found that having too much time was associated with lower subjective well-being due to a lack of a sense of productivity and purpose.”

Writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Sharif and his colleagues reported how they analyzed the results of two large-scale surveys, involving a combined total of more than 35,000 participants.

One was the American Time Use Survey, which was conducted between 2012 and 2013 and asked participants what they had done in the last 24 hours.

After seeking collective opinions on which activities would equate to free time and then calculating this time for participants, the team found that while subjective well-being increased with the amount of free time up to about two hours, it started to decline once. that exceeded five hours.

Meanwhile, data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce, conducted between 1992 and 2008, revealed that beyond a certain point, having more free time was no longer linked to greater subjective well-being, but it did not decline, possibly because few of participants reported having more than five hours of free time a day.

The team said the American Time Use Survey suggested that how people spent their free time mattered.

“Although a large amount of discretionary time spent on individual, non-productive activities had a negative effect on subjective well-being, discretionary time spent on activities that were social or productive did not,” they wrote.

The team then conducted two online experiments, using data from 2,565 American participants in one and 4,046 in the other, in an attempt to ensure that the findings were not simply due to, for example, a scenario in which people living with depression could find themselves. with lots of free time.

In both experiments, participants were asked to imagine a defined amount of free time per day and what they would do with it, with an experiment specifically looking at whether it was engaged in meaningful and productive activities, or whether it was “wasted.”

The team found that having more free time was not necessarily better when viewed against imagined feelings of well-being, stress, or productivity. More specifically, imagined well-being stabilized when hypothetical productive time off increased from moderate to high amounts, but was 0.4 points lower on a seven-point scale compared to moderate amounts of non-productive time off.

The team said that the size of the effects was small and that the optimal amounts of free time were inaccurate.

However, they said the work suggested that people who feel they have very little free time should not give up all their obligations, but should try to find a couple of free hours a day. In the meantime, those with empty days should try to spend their time with a purpose, be it connecting with others or doing something productive.

Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics and behavioral sciences at the University of Warwick who was not involved in the study, welcomed the research.

“This is a valuable study because it provides all kinds of statistical evidence for a very intuitive idea: human beings like to have ‘discretionary’ free time (for leisure, housework, hobbies, etc.) in their day, but not too much, “he said.” It’s a Goldilocks result, on time. “

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