Everyone is happier and feels healthier on the weekend

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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A new study shows that individuals from all walks of life are happier and feel healthier on the weekend. Increased feelings of vitality, better mood, and fewer aches and pains was reported among construction workers, physicians, lawyers, secretaries, and laborers, from the “weekend effect”, in a study led by author and psychologist Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

According to Ryan, "Workers, even those with interesting, high status jobs, really are happier on the weekend. Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual's well-being. Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing — basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork."

The study tracked the moods of 74 adults age 18 to 72 employed at least 30 hours a week. The participants were paged throughout the day, answering questions about their mood, activities, positive or negative feelings, and physical symptoms that might indicate stress such as headache, upset stomach, low energy or respiratory complaints. The findings showed that the “weekend effect” has a positive effect on both men and women who consistently felt better mentally and physically on the weekend. The group was observed for three weekends.

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The “weekend effect” did not reveal any difference between individuals who were single, married, or of a certain age - nor was there any relationship to income or job status that contributed to feeling happier and healthier on the weekend. Everyone felt better Monday through Friday.

To better understand why Monday through Friday makes people feel happier and healthier, the researchers determined that people have more freedom and sense of closeness to family and friends on the weekend. They also felt more competent, an important contributor to long term happiness found in other studies.

The authors say the study “offers one of the first substantive and theory-based explanations for why wellbeing tends to be more favorable on the weekends: People experience greater autonomy and relatedness, which are, in turn, related to higher wellness." In contrast, working during the week, "is replete with activities involving external controls, time pressures, and demands on behavior related to work, child care and other constraints."

The authors say the findings show the need to restructure work environments to promote wellness, “to the extent that daily life, including work, affords a sense of autonomy, relatedness, and competence…” Maintaining a continuous state of happiness and feeling healthier could do much to for disease prevention. Everyone studied reported feeling happier and healthier on the weekend.

University of Rochester

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