Social Indicators Research

, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 233–264 | Cite as

Leisure and quality of life in an international and multicultural context: what are major pathways linking leisure to quality of life?

  • Yoshitaka Iwasaki


This paper aims at advancing the conceptualization of leisure as a contributor to quality of life (QOL) in an international and multicultural context, based on an extensive and critical review of literature on leisure and QOL from a global, international perspective. Given the central role of culture in conceptualizing this notion, this paper gives attention to various cultural contexts world-wide. To illustrate the diversity of our societies, examples are introduced specifically from three culturally unique contexts in this paper – i.e., Asian, Middle-East, and Indigenous contexts. Also, some examples are drawn from other cultural groups in global and international contexts, particularly, in non-western contexts. Then, the final section of this paper aims at integrating and synthesizing the knowledge gained from this review to develop a tentative/working proposition about how leisure can contribute to QOL from international and cross-cultural perspectives. Specifically, based on such integration, this paper identifies and describes major pathways linking leisure to QOL. Overall, an overarching theme common to almost all cultural contexts examined appears to be the role of leisure-like activities as a context or space for creating meanings which then help to promote the quality of people’s lives. Major pathways or mechanisms that can facilitate meaning-making and life-quality-enhancement highlighted in this review include: (a) positive emotions and well-being experienced from leisure, (b) positive identities and self-esteem gained from leisure, (c) social and cultural connections and a harmony developed through leisure, and (d) leisure’s contribution to learning and human development across the life-span. Also, emphasized in this paper is the role of leisure as a context for realizing and utilizing human strengths and resilience. It is important, however, to stress that in people’s quest for a meaningful life, the benefits of meaning-making through leisure involve both “remedying the bad” and “enhancing the good,” as shown throughout this paper. Despite these benefits, we should not ignore that leisure experiences are socially and culturally constructed and shaped by the inequalities of society. Thus, the reality of power imbalance and inequalities should be acknowledged and appropriately addressed socially, culturally, and politically. Particularly, providing culturally relevant and meaningful leisure opportunities for less privileged population groups world-wide is clearly a top priority.

Key words

leisure quality of life culture meaning diversity strength 


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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the World Leisure Consensus Symposium, World Leisure Expo 2006, Hangzhou, China.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Therapeutic RecreationCollege of Health Professions Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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