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Psychol Bull. 2015 Mar;141(2):364-403. doi: 10.1037/a0038508. Epub 2015 Jan 19.

Leisure engagement and subjective well-being: A meta-analysis.

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Department of Psychological Science, Purdue University.


Numerous studies show a link between leisure engagement and subjective well-being (SWB). Drawing on common experiential features of leisure, psychological need theories, and bottom-up models of SWB, we suggest that leisure engagement influences SWB via leisure satisfaction. We examine the proposed cross-sectional relations and mediation model using random-effects meta-analyses that include all available populations. To provide a stronger test of causal influence, we also examine longitudinal relations between leisure satisfaction and SWB and effects of experimental leisure interventions on SWB using random effects meta-analyses of all available populations. Findings based on 37 effect sizes and 11,834 individuals reveal that leisure engagement and SWB are moderately associated (inverse-variance weighted r = .26) and mediated by leisure satisfaction. Cross-lagged regression analyses of longitudinal studies, controlling for prior SWB, reveal bottom-up effects of leisure satisfaction on SWB (β = .15) and top-down effects of SWB on leisure satisfaction (β = .16). Experimental studies reveal that leisure interventions enhance SWB (d = 1.02). Compared with working samples, retired samples exhibit a stronger relation between leisure engagement and SWB, and between leisure satisfaction and SWB. Measures of the frequency and diversity of leisure engagement are more strongly associated with SWB than measures of time spent in leisure. Overall, although not minimizing top-down influences, results are consistent with bottom-up models of SWB and suggest that the leisure domain is a potentially important target for enhancing SWB.

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