To live happily, let’s try to be busy! Hobbies and other hobbies are one of the keys to happiness and healthy aging, according to a study of people aged 65 and over in sixteen countries. Not only do hobbies reduce depressive symptoms, they are also linked to increased happiness and life satisfaction.
“Simple things are the most extraordinary, and only scientists can see them.“. This quote from Paulo Coelho, taken from “The Alchemist”, is now echoed in a study led by researchers at University College London (UCL). We learn that hobbies, such as gardening , reading, art, or even games, would make it possible to fight against the decline in mental health and happiness linked to age. And that’s not all, since they would contribute to the development of people elderly, as well as their good health (self-declared), and their satisfaction in life. Simple and accessible pleasures that could help improve the mental health of more than a billion people around the world.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers were interested in the influence of hobbies on the physical and mental health of people aged 65 and over. More than 93,000 individuals who participated in five longitudinal studies in England, Japan, the United States, China and 12 European countries were included in this research, for which their data was analyzed over a period of four to eight years. Note that studies carried out in England, Japan and the United States made it possible to question participants about their hobbies, without the term being precisely defined, while participants in studies in Europe and China were asked about a specific list of hobbies.
Gardening to live happier
Published in the journal Nature Medicine, this work shows that having a hobby, defined as an activity practiced in one’s free time (volunteering, book club, gardening, games, art, etc.) is associated with a drop in depressive symptoms and increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction. According to the study, these hobbies are also linked to increased levels of “self-reported health”. Be careful, however, the researchers indicate that “(these findings) suggest(s) that there may be a causal effect“, but they also specify that this link has not been proven due to the observational nature of the study.
“Our study shows that hobbies can protect older adults against age-related declines in mental health and well-being. This potential holds true across many countries and cultural contexts,” says Dr. Karen Mak , main author of this research work, in a press release. And added: “Of the findings, life satisfaction was most strongly linked to hobby participation. Hobbies may contribute to life satisfaction in later years through many mechanisms, including feeling in control of one’s mind and body, finding purpose in life, and feeling competent to cope. to daily problems“.
Normality for the Danes
Although these observations were made in all the countries studied, each population does not approach the hobby in the same way. The researchers note, for example, that just over half of Spanish and Italian participants reported having a hobby (51% and 54% respectively), compared to 96% in Denmark, 95.8% in Sweden, or another 94.4% in Switzerland. “In countries with higher life expectancy and national happiness levels, more people report having a hobby, and the link between well-being and having a hobby is stronger in these countries“, we can read in the study.
These conclusions could make it possible to implement new strategies intended to promote certain hobbies among older people. “Theoretical work suggests that the relationship between hobbies and well-being can go both ways: people in better mental health may be more likely to engage in a hobby, and persistence in a hobby can help us maintain greater life satisfaction. Our study also helps policymakers promote older people’s access to hobbies to improve their well-being and health“, conclude the scientists.