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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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