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Are People Who Participate in Cultural Activities More Satisfied with Life?


The influence of various aspects of life on wellbeing has been extensively researched. However, despite little empirical evidence, participation in leisure activities has been assumed to increase subjective wellbeing. Leisure is important because it is more under personal control than other sources of life satisfaction. This study asked whether people who participate in cultural leisure activities have higher life satisfaction than people who do not, if different types of leisure have the same influence on life satisfaction and if satisfaction is dependent on the frequency of participation or the number of activities undertaken. It used data from UKHLS Survey to establish associations between type, number and frequency of participation in leisure activities and life satisfaction. Results showed an independent and positive association of participation in sport, heritage and active-creative leisure activities and life satisfaction but not for participation in popular entertainment, theatre hobbies and museum/galleries. The association of reading hobbies and sedentary-creative activities and life satisfaction was negative. High life satisfaction was associated with engaging in a number of different activities rather than the frequency of participation in each of them. The results have implications for policy makers and leisure services providers, in particular those associated with heritage recreation. Subjective wellbeing measures, such as life satisfaction, and not economic measures alone should be considered in the evaluation of services. The promotion of leisure activities which are active and promote social interaction should be considered in programmes aimed at improving the quality of life.

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We are grateful to Henk Berits of the National Trust for Scotland for his advice and encouragement.

Author information

Correspondence to Jennifer L. Brown.



See Table 2.

Table 2 Cultural leisure categories

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Brown, J.L., MacDonald, R. & Mitchell, R. Are People Who Participate in Cultural Activities More Satisfied with Life?. Soc Indic Res 122, 135–146 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-014-0678-7

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  • Life satisfaction
  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Quality of life
  • Leisure
  • Cultural activities
  • Heritage recreation