Hobbies Linked to Improved Well-being

On Fridays, we usually talk about getting outdoors. But we know that the weather isn’t always perfect for venturing outside. That’s when we share ideas for crafts and inside activities. New research has found that hobbies can be incredibly beneficial for health.

Engaging in hobbies boosts well-being and lowers depression in people 65 and older. People who have hobbies report more life satisfaction and higher levels of happiness. And the study found that was true in 16 countries on three different continents, showing it appears to be a universal fact.

Data in the study came from 93,263 people in Asia, the U.S. and Europe. The differences between the countries were minor. People submitted their data over four to eight years. Because it was an observational study and the researchers didn’t ask people to change their behavior, they can’t prove that hobbies are the cause. But it does appear that there was a link. The results remained constant regardless of factors like income or romantic status.

The researchers defined hobbies as activities people do for fun in their free time. The list included gardening, arts and crafts, playing games, volunteering, joining a book club and more. From country to country, people’s habits varied greatly. In Denmark, 96 percent of people had a hobby, while in Spain, 51 percent said they did. According to the study, China had the lowest number of hobby enthusiasts, with only 37.6 percent of people saying they had a hobby. But, people in China were only asked if they had a social hobby — not if they did something alone.

Lead author Dr. Karen Mak of the Univ. College London Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care said she believed the study should help people age more healthily. “Our study shows the potential of hobbies to protect older people from age-related decline in mental health and well-being. This potential is consistent across many countries and cultural settings. Of the four outcomes, life satisfaction was most strongly linked to hobby engagement. Hobbies may contribute to life satisfaction in our later years through many mechanisms, including feeling in control of our minds and bodies, finding a purpose in life and feeling competent in tackling daily issues.”

She added that the study might encourage more public programs to help people enjoy hobbies more easily. “Our research also supports policymakers in promoting access to hobbies among older people as a way to enhance their well-being and health.”

It’s long been known that physical hobbies, like gardening, help health as they are forms of exercise. But knowing that participating in hobbies in general is so beneficial is great!

If you do struggle with mental health and depression, hobbies will not take the place of mental health care. Reach out to your doctor to discuss your concerns and make a plan. To improve your everyday well-being, hobbies can be massively beneficial. Learning to cook, doing puzzles or joining community groups is fun and rewarding at any age! It can boost mood and aid health.

Banner image: Ross Sneddon via Unsplash

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