Most people moan about not having a second to spare these days. And while having some time to yourself is provably good for your well-being, a study from the University of Pennsylvania finds having too much time on your hands has the opposite effect.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“The sweet spot is a moderate amount of free time,” said study co-author Dr. Marissa Sharif. “We found that having too much time was associated with lower subjective well-being due to a lacking sense of productivity and purpose.”
That “sweet spot” to kick your feet up, or otherwise have nothing to do? Around five hours. After that, the researchers noticed, people’s stress levels began to rise.
The study was based on responses to a pair of surveys with 35,000 participants. The researchers also found that people who productively use free time, including socializing with friends, felt better about extended levels of free time, whereas those with five or more hours to spend just watching TV or surfing the internet tended to get stressed about wasting time.
Dr. Sharif concludes, “In cases when people do find themselves with excessive amounts of discretionary time, such as retirement or having left a job, our results suggest these individuals would benefit from spending their newfound time with purpose.”