A new study suggests that there is such a thing as too much free time. Many individuals also feel that their list of things to do is overloaded. In a series of studies, it was found that people’s sense of well-being was drained by either having too much work to do or by having too much free time.
The authors of the study have said that the stress created by being constantly pressed for time can take a toll on the well-being of a person. This has been documented by many studies.
What Effect Would Extra Free Time Have On Your Mental Health?
According to lead researcher Marissa Sharif, the other end of the spectrum is highlighted by the new findings. She is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Her team found that well-being may be diminished by excessive free time as people may feel that productivity levels are low. Sharif said that more than just being busy is meant by the word ‘productive’.
She noted that being busy is becoming a status symbol in society today. She said that it seems to signify that a person is important.
Our sense of purpose in life is related to feeling productive and this is what makes productivity different. Sharif said that this may be lacking when people have too much time on their hands.
The researchers first used two surveys conducted on a national level about their subjective time being and how they use their time. Lower ratings to their life satisfaction were given by those who had the least amount of free time in a survey that consisted of more than 13,600 adults who worked.
The same was found by a second survey, but this one also suggested that having too much free time is not any better.
More than 21,700 Americans were included in that survey. Both employed and unemployed people were surveyed.
Poorer well-being was correlated with a dearth of free time, but the benefits of free time seemed to hit a ceiling at 2 hours every day. More than 2 hours of free time did not make people happier.
What is free time? In this study, it was defined as the time that you spend voluntarily doing whatever you want and not in work that you were obligated to perform like household chores and dental appointments. For various reasons, people may have too much free time or too little of it.
It was found by Sharif’s team that unemployment or retirement or being unmarried or childless did not explain the lesser well-being of people with a lot of free time. Happiness was also influenced by how people decide to spend their free time.
An experiment was conducted by researchers where participants imagined having a moderate amount of free time or lots of it. They were also asked to picture spending that time either productively or unproductively.
If the time was spent unproductively, the participants felt that their well-being would reduce drastically. James Maddux said that such a simulated exercise cannot be translated to real-life easily. James was not involved in the study.
He explained that it has been found by researchers in the past that people are poor at predicting what will bring them happiness. According to him, it makes sense that free time spent productively would be vastly different from time spent aimlessly.
He also said that some people wouldn’t trade work for extra free time as they thrive while busy. He added that the word ‘productive’ does not have a universal definition. Some people may enjoy reading a book and appreciate the mental stimulation and others might not.