Spending time with friends, and not with family, makes people happier, according to the latest study from Southern Methodist University in University Park, Texas.
As American psychologists have discovered that it’s about the time spent on entertainment and responsibilities.
“Previous research suggests that having intimate relationships is a fundamental human need that, when satisfied, is positively associated with well-being. However, scientists have argued that communicating with partners and family members can be psychologically burdensome, for example, due to the pressures associated with the need to offer support, care and empathy,” the study authors write.
This led the researchers to test how people rate their time with family and friends. More than 400 people participated in the study. Scientists asked them to think about the time they spent with friends or family, to recall what they did, and to assess whether these experiences left them with emotions such as happiness, satisfaction, and a sense of being meaningful. Each emotion was scored from 0 (almost never) to 6 (almost always).
This information and other responses about how the study participants felt at different times allowed the authors to assess the level of happiness experienced.
According to research, time spent with family and partners received lower scores: participants felt happier with their friends.
However, researchers point out, it’s not about the status of the relationship, but about the activity that the participants shared with certain people. If they associated with friends a fun and interesting pastime, then with family and children for housework and other activities associated were not very pleasant.
Activities with the couple include socializing, relaxing, and eating. People often do something similar with friends, but in different proportions; for example, 65% of the time spent with friends was associated with communication, but as a couple, it was only 28%.
While spending time with their children, the participants also spent more time on activities that evoked negative associations, such as housework and travel.
However, childcare was generally evaluated as a positive activity.
“It’s important to create opportunities for positive experiences with romantic partners and children – and to really mentally savor those positive times. In contrast, family relationships that involve nothing but chores, housework, and childcare likely won’t predict a lot of happiness”, insists psychology professor Nathan Hudson.
He notes that when participants described only enjoyable activities, there were no significant differences in grades between spending time with friends and family. In other words, it was just as good for them to have fun with both of them.
“Our study suggests that this doesn’t have to do with the fundamental nature of kith versus kin relationships. When we statistically controlled for activities, the ‘mere presence’ of children, romantic partners, and friends predicted similar levels of happiness. Thus, this paper provides an optimistic view of family and suggests that people genuinely enjoy their romantic partners and children.”