Just about everybody – even workaholics – should look forward to the weekend, when most people get a mood boost, a new study suggests.
Participants in the study often reported better moods, greater vitality, and fewer aches and pains from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon as compared with the rest of the week.
"Workers, even those with interesting, high-status jobs, really are happier on the weekend," said study researcher Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.
The researchers tracked the moods of 74 adults between the ages of 18 to 62 who worked at least 30 hours per week. For three weeks, subjects were randomly contacted on pagers three times throughout the day and asked to complete a brief questionnaire describing the activity they were engaged in at that moment. Using a seven-point scale, they rated positive feelings such as happiness, joy and pleasure, along with negative feelings such as anxiety, anger and depression. They also reported physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, digestive problems, respiratory ills or low energy.
Working men and women across all occupations felt mentally and physically better on the weekends regardless of income, work hours, education, age or marital status, the researchers found.
To figure out why, the researchers had participants indicate whether they felt controlled versus autonomous in the task they were engaged in the moment they were paged. Participants also noted how close they felt to those around them and how competent they perceived themselves to be at their activity.
No surprise: Weekends were associated with elevated feelings of freedom and closeness — participants said they were more often involved in activities of their own choosing and spending time with close friends and family members. People also felt more competent during the weekend than they did at work.
"Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing — basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork," Ryan said.
In contrast, the work week "is replete with activities involving external controls, time pressures, and demands on behavior related to work, child care and other constraints," the authors wrote in the January issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Workers also may spend time among colleagues with whom they share limited emotional connections.
"Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual's well-being," Ryan said.