It’s no secret that getting out and about can make you feel happier and more relaxed but multiple studies conducted around the world recently have confirmed that having a hobby is instrumental in boosting psychological wellbeing, especially in older adults.
Five extensive studies were undertaken where more than 93,000 people with an average age between 71 and 75 years old across the US, Japan, China, Europe and other countries, were questioned about their leisure activities and corresponding well-being. The research was published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine in September.
The authors’ conclusion was that people who have hobbies simply feel better and this correlation was regardless of other factors such as relationship status, employment status and household income.
The term “hobby” was described as the type of activity people do in their free time, either alone or with others. Examples were creating arts and crafts, reading, sports, gardening, volunteering and being part of a club.
Interestingly, the studies showed that 90 per cent of German senior citizens said they had a hobby while only 54 per cent of senior Italians and 51 per cent of Spanish seniors said they had alternative pastimes. Denmark had the most people engaged in a hobby with 96 per cent of people interviewed saying they were actively involved in leisure pursuits.
The study authors explained that while differing living conditions did not significantly impact the studies’ result, countries with a high World Happiness Index and life expectancies such as Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden all had high hobby activity among their citizens. They added that the association between hobby activity and psychological well-being was consistent across all countries that participated.
While the study does point to a correlation, it does not establish, with certainty, a causal link between taking up a leisure activity and better well-being.
However, Sophie Wickham who currently works at the Institute of Population Health Science, at the University of Liverpool (who was not involved in the analysis), commented that the results are convincing due to the robustness of the analysis.
“A causal relationship can be assumed,” she said, noting that the findings were particularly important given that global mental health is in crisis.
Led by Daisy Fancourt of University College London, the research team believes its findings could be used to develop innovative programs that help retirees get access to hobbies. This is especially important for countries that have ageing populations.
Whether alone or as part of a group or community, having a hobby can give you a sense of purpose and connectedness in later life.