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Too much free time makes us unhappy

New research suggests that 2.5 hours a day is the perfect amount of free time. More or less than that makes us unhappy.

Most of us spend most of our time doing things we need (but probably don't want) to do. Working, say, or commuting or housekeeping or sleeping. But having limited leisure time might not be such a bad thing, according to a new study.

Researchers asked 35,000 Americans how much time each day they spent doing whatever they wanted, and how satisfied they were with their lives. It turned out that employed people were happiest when they had just 2.5 hours free each day. (Unemployed people required a bit more free time for peak happiness; 4 hours and 45 minutes.)

These finding could become more important if predictions of a robot-driven, leisure-filled future come to be. For years, some people have been arguing that technology will soon be able to replace most human labour, both the paid kind (think robot doctors, teachers and builders) and the unpaid kind (robots who clean our homes, do our paperwork and send flowers to our Aunt Bethel on her birthday).

For some, this would make for a dystopian future of widespread poverty and a return to a downtrodden, ignored underclass. But plenty of others (including super famous economist John Maynard Keynes) are excited by the possibility that human beings could spend most of their time just having fun and doing things that make them happy.

A popular idea is that the wealth created from robot workers could be shared out amongst us in the form of a Universal Basic Income, so everyone gets a decent amount of money without having to work. But if having too much spare time really does bums us out, perhaps even this work-free, money-rich future wouldn't be as great as it sounds.

Read our explainer on: technology in the workplace.

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Reader Comments

  • WhereAreTheVikings

    What a terrible, terrible shame. Western Civilization nurtured capitalism, and now capitalism is destroying it. And these young people seem to welcome the invasion of their homeland. The media and schools have been very efficient in wiping out all traces of blood and soil.

    • prollawalllynotahumanoid

      Capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s corrupt politicians taking bribes and kickbacks from Globalists and the Chinese.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        Maybe I should have said crony capitalism. Although Italians importing Chinese to make “Italian leather” shoes is not crony capitalism. It is capitalism, pure and simple.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          That would be crony capitalism and globalism combined. They aren’t concerned with the affect their policies have upon their citizens, the health and welfare of their society and culture or their economy. What it isn’t is fair-free trade to further national interests.

          • WhereAreTheVikings

            I’ve always seen them as one and the same, but perhaps they need to be named individually, just to bring home the point.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        But now that travel is so easy and borders are virtually down through H1bs and the like, theoretically you can’t blame capitalists for the pursuit of cheaper labor, although I do heartily blame them not being more patriotic than that. Perhaps the emerging nationalism will force them to voluntarily do what they should have morally been doing all along, and that is employing business practices that preserve their countries and nationalities. The government should be doing everything it can to encourage that, to the extent that small government should do anything but guard the borders and strictly, drastically, limit immigration.

      • Henry Lam

        It is China with its corrupted mindset affecting the world.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          No it is not. Capitalism is the fairest and least corrupt system of all.

          Socialism and communism is based on authoritarianism, coercion and police intimidation. It has and always will be rife with criminality, bribes and kickbacks.

          Corruption can be anywhere but it is the very basis of socialism and communism.

    • Henry Lam

      The government is too weak. They do not understand the mindset of communists and how they educate their people. Those communist people are only loyal to their country and could be dangerous. The immigration law should only accept those who accepted multiculturalism and taught from a democratic education system. This virus events clearly has shown how stupid to take China as a friend.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        The government is not too weak. Just weak-minded about some things.

  • Gabi Rodrigues

    For how many days can a country maximum close their borders to foreigners maximum? Like now, with the virus, everyone is using 30 days. Can it be more?