Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 839–856 | Cite as

Of Happiness and of Despair, Is There a Measure? Time Use and Subjective Well-being

  • Jiri ZuzanekEmail author
  • Tamara Zuzanek
Research Paper


Data from the 1975 U.S. time use survey, Canadian time use surveys (GSS) conducted from 1986 to 2010, and experience sampling surveys (ESM) conducted in 1985 and 2003 at the University of Waterloo (Canada) are used to examine well-being effects of time use. Indicators of subjective well-being (SWB) under investigation include: (a) generalised enjoyment ratings of selected daily activities; (b) reporting of the single most enjoyed activity performed on the time diary day; (c) affect ratings of daily activities recorded in ESM surveys at the time of their occurrence; (d) correlations between time use and levels of respondents’ perceived happiness and life satisfaction, and (e) relationships between frequency of participation in different groups of daily activities and respondents’ cumulative affect ratings during a survey week (ESM 1985, 2003). An argument is made that attempts to delineate indices of SWB as multiples of activity enjoyment ratings and their duration encounter considerable measurement and conceptual difficulties. It is suggested that prolonged exposure to highly enjoyed daily activities does not always foretell higher levels of cumulative subjective well-being, which is associated with balanced use of time rather than increased participation in individual activities.


Time use DRM ESM Subjective well-being Measurement 



The 1985 and 2003 ESM surveys were supported by Grants from the Canadian Federal Department of Fitness and Amateur Sport and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and were directed by Jiri Zuzanek (principal investigator) and Roger Mannell. The author would like to thank Kimberly Fisher, Margo Hilbrecht, Steven Mock, Tania White and Natasha Graham for their advice.


  1. Alliger, G. M., & Williams, K. J. (1993). Using signal-contingent experience sampling methodology to study work in the field: A discussion and illustration examining task perceptions and mood. Personnel Psychology, 46(3), 525–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, N. (1961). Work and Leisure. New York: Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar
  3. Argyle, M. (1987). The Psychology of Happiness. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Blake, W. (1793). The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 8, line 26. In David V. Erdman (Ed.) The Poetry and Prose of William Blake. (New York: Garden City 1965).Google Scholar
  5. Brooker, A. S., & Hyman, I. (2010). Time Use. Toronto: A Report of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW).Google Scholar
  6. Chekhov, A. P. (1946). Zhizn prekrasna. Sochinenia, Tom IV, Moskva: OGIZ (pp. 272–273).Google Scholar
  7. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  8. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Hunter, J. (2003). Happiness in everyday life: The use of experience sampling. Journal of Happiness Studies, 4, 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Larson, R. (1984). Being Adolescent. New York: Basic Books Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Larson, R. (1987). Validity and reliability of the experience sampling method. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 175(9), 526–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Mai Ha-Wong, M. (1991). The situational and personal correlates of happiness: A cross national comparison. In F. Strack, M. Argyle, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Subjective Well-being: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  12. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Schneider, B. (2000). Becoming Adult. How Teenagers Prepare for the World of Work. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Dow, G. K., & Juster, F. T. (1985). Goods, time and well-being: the joint dependence problem. In F. T. Juster & F. P. Stafford (Eds.), Time, Goods, and Well-being (pp. 397–413). Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  14. Dumazedier, J. (1967). Toward a Society of Leisure. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  15. Eibach, R. P., & Mock, S. E. (2011). Idealizing parenthood to rationalize parental investments. Psychological Science, 22, 203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness. The Economic Journal, 114, 641–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fleming, R. & Spellerberg, A. (1999). Using Time Use Data. A History of Time Use Surveys and Uses of Time Use Data. Statistics New Zealand. Te Tari Tatau.Google Scholar
  18. Galay, K. (2007). Patterns of Time Use and Happiness in Bhutan: Is there a relationship between the two? V.R.F series, No 432. Institute for Developing Economies. Japan.Google Scholar
  19. Gershuny, J. (2011). Time-Use Surveys and the Measurement of National Well-Being. Oxford: University of Oxford, Centre for Time Use Research.Google Scholar
  20. Gershuny, J. & Egerton, M. (2006). ‘Evidence on participation and participants’ time use from day- and week-long diaries: implications for modelling time use’ Paper given at the IATUR Conference, August 2006, Danish National Institute of Social Research, Copenhagen,
  21. Gershuny, J., & Halpin, B. (1996). Time use, quality of life and process benefits. In A. Offer (Ed.), Pursuit of the Quality of Life (pp. 188–210). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hektner, J. M, Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Schmidt, J (2002). Experience Sampling Method: Measuring the Quality of Everyday Life. Google Scholar
  23. Juster, F. T., Courant, P. N., & Dow, G. K. (1981). A theoretical framework for the measurement of well-being. The Review of Income and Wealth, Series, 27(1), 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kahneman, D. (2000). Experienced utility and objective happiness: A moment-based approach. In D. Kahneman & A. Tversky (Eds.), Choices, Values and Frames (pp. 673–692). New York: Cambridge University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  25. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 2–24.Google Scholar
  26. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004a). A survey method for characterizing daily experience: The day reconstruction method. Science, 306, 1776. doi: 10.1126/science.1103572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004b). Toward national well-being accounts. American Economic Review, 94, 429–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kant, I. (1798; 2006). Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, ed. Robert B. Louden, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Knabe, A., Ratzel, S., Schob, R. & Weimann, J. (2009). CESifo Working Paper No. 2604. Scholar
  30. Krueger, A., Kahneman, D., Schkade, D., Schwarz, N., & Stone A. A. (2009). National time accounting: The currency of life. In A. B. Krueger (Ed.), Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being (pp. 8–86). Cambridge, MA: NBER. Google Scholar
  31. Larson, R., & Richards, M. H. (1994). Divergent Realities: The Emotional Lives of Mothers, Fathers, and Adolescents. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  32. Loewenstein, G. (2009). That which makes life worthwhile. In A. B. Krueger (Ed.), Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being (pp. 87–106). Cambridge, MA: NBER.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lundberg, G. A., Komarovsky, M., & McInerny, M. A. (1934). Leisure—A Suburban Study. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Matuska, K., & Christiansen, C. (Eds.). (2009). Life Balance: Multidisciplinary Theories and Research. Washington DC: Slack, Inc and AOTA Press.Google Scholar
  35. Michelson, W. (2010). What makes an activity most enjoyable? Alternative ways of measuring subjective aspects of time-use. Social Indicators Research, 107 doi: 10.1007/s11205-010-9697-1.
  36. Montaigne, M., Essays, Vol. 12, Chapter XX
  37. Robinson, J. (1977). How Americans Use Time. A Social-Psychological Analysis of Everyday Behavior. New York: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
  38. Robinson, J. (1985). The validity and reliability of diaries versus alternative time use measures. In F. T. Juster & F. P. Stafford (Eds.), Time, Goods, and Well-being (pp. 33–62). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research.Google Scholar
  39. Robinson, M. D., & Clore, G. L. (2002). Belief and feeling: Evidence for an accessibility model of emotional self-report. Psychological Bulletin, 128(6), 934–96023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Robinson, J., & Martin, S. (2009). Comments on Krueger presentation and article. Social Indicators Research, 93(1), 27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schmidt, J. A. (2009). Experience Sampling Method: Measuring Work and Family Time Commitments. Sloan Network Encyclopedia Entry.
  42. Schwarz, N., Kahneman, D., & Xu, J. (2009). Global and episodic reports of hedonic experience. In R. Belli, D. Alwin, & F. Stafford (Eds.), Using Calendar and Diary Methods in Life Events Research (pp. 157–174). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness. Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  44. Stewart, J. (2009). Tobit or Not Tobit?. Paper 4588. Bonn, Germany: Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit (IZA).Google Scholar
  45. Stone, A. A., Schwartz, J. E., Schwarz, N., Schkade, D., Krueger, A., & Kahneman, D. (2006). A population approach to the study of emotion. Diurnal rhythms of a working day examined with the day reconstruction method (DRM). Emotion, 6, 139–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stone, A. A., & Shiffman, S. (1992). Reflecting on the intensive measurement of stress, coping, and mood, with an emphasis on daily measures. Psychology and Health, 7, 115–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zuzanek, J. (2005). Adolescent time use and well-being from a comparative perspective. Loisir & Société/Society and Leisure, 28(2), 379–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zuzanek, J. (2009a). Students’ study time and their homework problem. Social Indicators Research, 93(1), 111–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zuzanek, J. (2009b). Time use imbalances: Developmental and emotional costs. In K. Matuska & C. Christiansen (Eds.), Life Balance: Biological, Psychological and Sociological Perspectives on Lifestyle and Health. Bethesda: AOTA Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Recreation and Leisure Studies/SociologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.PragueCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations