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Americans Feel Less Rushed, Less Happy: UMD Research

April 29, 2013
Contacts: 

Andrew Roberts 301-405-2171
Laura Ours 301-405-5722

Fewer Americans describe their lives as "always rushed," according to a new study by a University of Maryland researcher.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Fewer Americans describe their lives as "always rushed," according to a new study by a University of Maryland researcher – this during a period when smart phones and electronic tablets made work and social life more time-intensive and ever- present.  Between 2004 and 2010, significantly fewer (about 8 percent of survey respondents) considered themselves so intensely rushed.

At the same time, that less hectic lifestyle did not translate to increased happiness. While feelings of being rushed have been associated with lower levels of feeling "very happy," during this period, Americans' reports of happiness also declined significantly.

"The result was almost the opposite of what I expected" says University of Maryland sociologist and time-use researcher John P. Robinson, who conducted the study.  "Until this 2010 survey, feelings of being rushed had continually increased or stayed at the same level." Robinson has been tracking responses to time survey questions since 1965, when he directed the first national time survey at the University of Michigan.

Robinson reported the findings in a February 2013 report in Scientific American, and more fully in the January 2013 issue of Social Indicators Research.

 While feelings of being rushed have been associated with lower levels of feeling "very happy," during this period, Americans' reports of happiness also declined significantly.Digging deeper, Robinson also found a decline in how often Americans felt they "had time on their hands they didn't know what to do with." Nearly half of people who reported "almost never" being rushed and "almost never" having excess time on their hands said they were "very happy" in their lives -- compared to only about 25 percent of the rest of the population. 

"This small slice of the population – perhaps less than 10 percent of the public – seems to have found a way to organize their lives in a way to resist the rat race and hurry sickness than afflicts the rest of us," Robinson concludes.

The drop in feeling rushed does not appear connected to increases in joblessness during this period, as more declines were found among those who were employed. Nor were there any age groups that felt less rushed.
 
The data come from the 2010 General Social Survey of the University of Chicago, and various other national surveys by the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan and the University of North Florida.