Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 217–256 | Cite as

Pace of Life and Enjoyment of Life

  • Manfred GarhammerEmail author


The paper addresses the paradox that people in modern societies believe themselves to be very happy and satisfied with their lives while simultaneously are subjected to increasing time pressure and pace of life. It starts with presenting evidence for time pressure covering objective and subjective indicators. Evidence for Germany is given by comparing time-budgets in 1991/92 and in 1999. Time use among full time employed in Germany and other EU-societies in the 1990s is compared to the US and Japan by means of diary-data. As regards work life, overwork and the gap between actual and preferred working hours are examined. Survey-results on the relationship between work load, time pressure, stress and health are reported.

Most of these data support the conclusion that time pressure has emerged as a major social problem. Hence citizens are beginning to consider time prosperity as a dimension of their well-being beyond their consumer wealth.

However, this growing pace of life does not reduce life satisfaction and happiness. Here a paradox evolves as increasing time pressure goes hand in hand with increased subjective well-being (SWB) at country level in cross-cultural comparison as well as at individual level.

In the third section some answers to this paradox are explored: A first answer is offered through the modernization theory: life satisfaction and QOL are proliferating along with economic growth and living standards. This process at the same time accelerates social life. Hence, the negative effects of time pressure are counterbalanced by various yields of the modernization process resulting in a pattern of "heavy-going" satisfaction.

A second explanation is the psychological approach: time pressure fulfils positive functions for mobilizing individual resources. A variation of this argument is that the multiple-choice-society offers a wide variety of attractive options resulting in people engaging in too many activities. Here, the enjoyment of life is equated with taking advantage of every opportunity.

However, this paper prefers a third approach based on Simmel's explanation of the ambivalent consequences of modernity. Even where the majority of citizens report high levels of happiness and life satisfaction – which can be explained through "arousal" or "eu-stress" – the need to ease the time-burden of disadvantaged groups and to down-speed work and social life in general is essential.

pace of life time pressure time prosperity QOL stress health cross-cultural comparison Europe USA Japan event-society Simmel 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology IUniversity of Bamberg/GermanyBambergGermany

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