Who Relaxes More, Men or Women?

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In 1930, the famous economist John Maynard Keynes speculated that the 21st century work week would last just 15 hours. Sadly, this prediction has not yet come to pass. If it’s any consolation, however, people are devoting more time to leisure activities.

But who spends more time engaging in leisure pursuits, men or women? A new study appearing in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health may have the answer.

Researchers at the University of Barcelona in Spain surveyed 869 Spanish men and women between ages 18 and 24 to assess the amount of time people devoted to various leisure activities. Leisure activities, in this research, were defined as non-compulsory activities such as watching television, hobbies, socializing with family and friends, practicing a sport, attending cultural events, or hosting events.

Interestingly, they found a stark gender difference: men spent a significantly larger portion of the day engaging in leisure pursuits. According to the results, men, on average, engaged in approximately 113 minutes of daily leisure activities while women tallied approximately 101 minutes. (Keep in mind that these numbers reflect weekday averages, not weekends.) This might not sound like a big discrepancy, but these small differences add up. At this rate, men spend approximately an extra hour and half per week, or an additional 70+ hours per year, engaging in leisure activities compared to women.

There is, however, a catch. When asked to report the satisfaction derived from leisure pursuits, women reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction. In other words, while it is true that men have more leisure time than women, women actually enjoy their leisure activities more than men. The authors write, “It should be highlighted that women seem to take greater advantage of the little time they have available for leisure.” The researchers speculate that this may have to do with the fact that women simply make better decisions regarding which leisure activities to engage in. Or, it might have to do with the notion that pleasurable experiences become less pleasurable as time wears on.

The researchers also examined how participation in leisure activities relates to one’s time perspective. Time perspective, for those not familiar with the term, is a theory in psychology that divides individuals into five personality types based on people’s relationship with time. Some people, for instance, tend to live in the past while others are more present-focused or future-oriented. There is an evaluative aspect to this theory, too. People who tend to live in the past are divided into two types: past-positive and past-negative. Past-positives generally have nostalgic and positive constructions of past life events while past-negatives carry an aversive, pessimistic attitude toward the past. Similarly, present-focused individuals are divided into present-hedonists (those who live in the moment and seek immediate pleasures) and present-fatalists (those who tend to express hopelessness about the future). Finally, the fifth group, future-oriented people, are most concerned with achieving goals, delaying rewards, and not wasting time.

The authors point out two interesting, and perhaps counter-intuitive, pieces of information as it pertains to time perspective. First, women tend to exhibit more positive time perspectives than men (i.e., they are less likely to be of the past-negative or present-fatalist type). Second, more leisure time is associated with higher levels of past-negative perspectives and lower levels of past-positive perspectives. In other words, too much leisure might not be a good thing — and it appears that it is women, not men, who have figured this out.

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