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Leisure Time in Modern Societies: A New Source of Boredom and Stress?

Abstract

The increase in leisure time over the last century is well documented. We know much less, however, about the quality of the use of leisure time. Quite divergent predictions exist in this regard: Some authors have argued that the new, extensive free time will lead to new forms of time pressure and stress; others have foreseen an expansion of boredom. This is the first paper that systematically investigates the quality of leisure time in 36 countries around the world. It uses the 2007 ISSP-survey “Leisure Time and Sport”. We investigate stress and boredom during leisure time by making use of four general theories about international and intercultural differences. The theories relate to the level of socio-economic development, religious–cultural systems, types of welfare states, and to the emergence of specific “time regimes”. In addition, we control for the effect of relevant individual level variables. At the macro level, significant differences emerge concerning the level of development, the dominant religion, and the extent of welfare benefits. The most interesting finding, however, was that a typology of leisure time regimes is the most suited to explain the considerable differences between the 36 countries compared. Implications of this finding for time policy and further research are discussed in the concluding section.

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Fig. 1
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Fig. 6

Notes

  1. 1.

    We are aware that the less developed countries included in our study (Latin American and East Asian countries) do not represent pre-industrial, but industrializing societies. In such societies, some of the pre-industrial patterns of living might persist while forced industrialization and the delayed introduction of the welfare state may be connected with long hours of work and time stress among employed people and persons in lower classes (Gershuny 2000:32ff.).

  2. 2.

    When testing the validity of Weber’s thesis, we need to consider that the capitalist mode of production has developed into a “steel-hard container” which constrains almost every economic actor in our contemporary world.

  3. 3.

    The calculation of “discretionary time” was the same as that of spare time. However, instead of considering the actual time spent, a “necessary” amount of time was defined. In the case of work, “necessary” time was considered the amount of work which would be necessary for a household to stay above the poverty line.

  4. 4.

    For detailed information see http://www.issp.org and Haller et al. (2009).

  5. 5.

    Members of the drafting group included Austria (convenor), France, the Philippines, Portugal, South Africa and Venezuela.

  6. 6.

    Denmark and Netherlands are not contained in the first official merged data file but were added by the authors. Portugal also fielded the module, but did not include all variables and is thus excluded. A first, comprehensive analysis of the English data set has been presented by Bailey and Park (2009).

  7. 7.

    The reader should remember that Figs. 2 and 3 are based on the percentage of respondents who feel bored or stressed very often, often or sometimes.

  8. 8.

    Belgian ISSP data is limited to Flanders because the Flemish research group was not able to find a partner in the French-speaking part.

  9. 9.

    Knut Kalgraff Skjak (Bergen) provided some explanations in an email (2.7.2010) to the authors: There might be a small difference in the translation of the word “stress” in Norwegian, compared to Sweden and Denmark. He is not surprised that the feeling of being rushed is higher in Norway because “the Norwegians are known to be active in their leisure time, and so are the children (which also involves parents). And being active in leisure time also results in not feeling bored”. He also made a relevant comment on the Danish results which make sense because “a strong element in their culture is to consider themselves as a relaxed people, also with respect to stress and boredom …”.

  10. 10.

    About 84 % of the Filipinos are Catholic; the GNP per head in 2005 was about 1.320 US-$ in the Philippines, about 16.000 in Korea and Taiwan, and 38.900 in Japan (Fischer Weltalmanach 2008).

  11. 11.

    These countries include the non-Protestant West European and the Far East Countries. In absolute terms, stress is highest in East Europe and some developed countries (e.g., Argentina and Philippines, but also Israel).

  12. 12.

    These correlations and those between leisure time stress and happiness are reported in the supplemental material.

  13. 13.

    See also the supplemental Tables S1, S2 and S3.

  14. 14.

    Eurostat Pressemitteilung 22.7.2008 (Stat-08-104_de-1.pdf).

  15. 15.

    Lewada (1992:50) asked in a Russian survey around 1990 which activities provides most fun; watching TV came only in 11th place, mentioned by 19 %.

  16. 16.

    About 30 % in Chile, Mexico and Uruguay, and 45 % in Argentina; see World Labour Report (2000, p. 285).

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Haller, M., Hadler, M. & Kaup, G. Leisure Time in Modern Societies: A New Source of Boredom and Stress?. Soc Indic Res 111, 403–434 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0023-y

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Keywords

  • Leisure time
  • Boredom
  • Time stress
  • International comparative research