Why too much free time is bad for us

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On the way to work or school this chilly morning, most of us would jump at the chance of a few days off from the busy pace of life.

Yet, rather than relaxing us, taking time off work for holidays can actually induce stress, according to a new study.

While it can often feel like there's not enough hours in the day to get everything done and have a few minutes to ourselves, researchers found there is one thing that matches the stress of not having enough free time: having too much.

Experts from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and Baylor University in Texas asked 1,329 teenagers how much spare time they had, and how happy they were.

Those who thought they had little free time were often miserable – but teens with plenty of time to themselves soon run out of things to do.

"What is more desirable: too little or too much spare time on your hands? To be happy, somewhere in the middle," the researchers said. "Materialistic young people need just the right amount of spare time to feel happier.

"We now live in a society where time is of the essence. The perception of a shortage of time, or time pressure, is linked to lower levels of happiness. At the same time, our consumer culture, characterised by materialism and compulsive buying, also has an effect on people's happiness."

The report concluded: "Living with a sensible, balanced amount of free time promotes well-being not only directly, but also by helping to alleviate some of the negative side effects associated with living in our consumer-orientated society."
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