Mental Health Benefits of Leisure Activities

The previous blog discuss stress management (1). Today’s post talks about the benefits of play and leisure activities on mental health.

A recent study of college students showed that academic stress was associated with negative emotion, and leisure activities engagement was associated with positive emotion (2).

A large scale study looked at impact on psychological and physical well-being from specific types of leisure activities (3).

What is leisure?

The study authors defined leisure as pleasurable activities that individuals engage in voluntarily when they are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities (2).

Who was studied (3)?

1399 individuals, 74% female, age = 19–89 years.

What was measured? (3)

  • Self-report measure (Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test (PEAT))
  • Participation in ten different types of leisure activities (described below)
  • Measures of positive and negative psychosocial states.
  • Blood pressure
  • The stress hormone, cortisol (over 2 days), and other factors.

What were the results? (3)

Enjoyable leisure activities are associated with:

  • Lower levels of depression and negative affect
  • Improved positive, physical and psychosocial states

What are some types of leisure activities from the study (3)?

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Spending time unwinding;
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Clubs/fellowship, and religious group participation;
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Sports
  • Hobbies

What are some caveats?

  • Compared to previous studies looking at single factors, this is a large scale study looking at many different leisure activities and its benefits on health and well being.
  • The study authors discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle habits (healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy sleep habits, etc.), avoiding harmful habits (smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc); and leisure activities as tools to improve physical and emotional health (3).
  • This balance might vary from person to person.

Different people might benefit from different types of play. What type of play is best for you?

Are there any campus resources on play?

Any other useful resources on campus?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/01/dealing-with-too-much-stress
  2. Zhang J, Zheng Y.  How do academic stress and leisure activities influence college students’ emotional well-being? A daily diary investigation.

    J Adolesc. 2017 Oct;60:114-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 23.
  3. Pressman, S. D, et. al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being.  Psychosomatic Medicine: September 2009 – Volume 71 – Issue 7 – pp 725-732 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978