In today’s world, a challenge for many is finding happiness or determining the quality of one’s life. Often the judgment involves time: Is it better to have too little or too much spare time on your hands?
In a new study, researchers say the ideal place for happiness rests somewhere in the middle.
Chris Manolis and James Roberts (from Xavier University and Baylor University, respectively) studied adolescents and found that materialistic young people with compulsive buying issues need just the right amount of spare time to feel happier.
The study is published online in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.
According to the researchers, we now live in a society where time is of the essence.
For many, the perception of a shortage of time, or time pressure, is linked to lower levels of happiness. At the same time, our consumer culture, characterized by materialism and compulsive buying, also has an effect on people’s happiness: the desire for materialistic possessions leads to lower life satisfaction.
Given the importance of time in contemporary life, Manolis and Roberts investigated the perception of spare time one perceives he or she has (time affluence) on the consequences of materialistic values and compulsive buying among adolescents.
A total of 1,329 adolescents from a public high school in a large metropolitan area of the Midwestern United States took part in the study.
The investigators measured how much spare time the young people thought they had; the extent to which they held materialistic values and had compulsive buying tendencies; and their subjective well-being, or self-rated happiness.
Manolis’s and Roberts’s findings confirm that both materialism and compulsive buying have a negative impact on teenagers’ happiness. The more materialistic they are and the more they engage in compulsive buying, the lower their happiness levels.
In addition, time affluence reduces the negative consequences of both materialism and compulsive buying in this group. Specifically, moderate time affluence — i.e., being neither too busy nor having too much spare time — is linked to higher levels of happiness in materialistic teenagers and those who are compulsive buyers.
Not surprising, those who suffer from time pressures, think materialistically or purchase compulsively feel less happy compared with their adolescent counterparts.
However, when adolescents have too much free time on their hands, the negative effects of material values and compulsive behaviors can compromise adolescent happiness.
The authors believe that “living with a sensible, balanced amount of free time promotes well-being not only directly, but also by helping to alleviate some of the negative side effects associated with living in our consumer-orientated society.”
This advice extends beyond the adolescent years and can serve as a mantra for everyone seeking happiness and balance.