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Weekends and Subjective Well-Being


This paper exploits the richness and large sample size of the Gallup/Healthways US daily poll to illustrate significant differences in the dynamics of two key measures of subjective well-being: emotions and life evaluations. We find that there is no day-of week effect for life evaluations, represented here by the Cantril Ladder, but significantly more happiness, enjoyment, and laughter, and significantly less anxiety, sadness, and anger on weekends (including public holidays) than on weekdays. We then find strong evidence of the importance of the social context, both at work and at home, in explaining the size and likely determinants of the weekend effects for emotions. Weekend effects are twice as large for full-time paid workers as for the rest of the population, and are much smaller for those whose work supervisor is considered a partner rather than a boss and who report trustable and open work environments. A large portion of the weekend effects is explained by differences in the amount of time spent with friends or family between weekends and weekdays (7.1 vs. 5.4 h). The extra daily social time of 1.7 h in weekends raises average happiness by about 2 %.

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  1. 1.

    Our results in Table 3 for Friday mirror those of Stone et al. (2012) in showing a ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ effect for positive emotions that is significant but less than half as big as the effects for Saturday and Sunday. Our later results are unaffected by our subsequent simplifying treatment of Fridays as regular weekdays.

  2. 2.

    The “Weekend” samples refer to those respondents whose emotions in weekends or public holidays are reported. These people are actually surveyed on Sunday, Monday, or the non-holiday day following a public holiday, since the emotions (“yesterday”) are those in one day before the survey date.


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Author information

Correspondence to John F. Helliwell.

Additional information

This paper is part of the ‘Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being’ research program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and is also supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This support is gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful to the Gallup Corporation for access to the Gallup/Healthways US daily poll. We thank Kevin Milligan and other participants of the empirical lunch at the University of British Columbia for their comments.



See Tables 12 and 13.

Table 12 (Ordered) Logistic regression results for the Canril Ladder and emotions
Table 13 Coefficient of Ln income

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Helliwell, J.F., Wang, S. Weekends and Subjective Well-Being. Soc Indic Res 116, 389–407 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-013-0306-y

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  • Weekend effects
  • Life evaluations
  • Emotions
  • Happiness
  • Subjective well-being
  • Holidays
  • Cantril Ladder
  • Day-of-week effects