The Happiest Day of the Week Is...

...Saturday, followed by Friday evening and Sunday morning and afternoon. Sense a trend? We love the weekend!

From construction laborers and secretaries to physicians and lawyers, people experience better moods, greater vitality and fewer aches and pains from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, according to researchers from the University of Rochester, who conducted the first study of daily mood variation in employed adults.

Call it the weekend effect. We're happiest on Saturday because we have the freedom to choose what we want to do and have more time to spend with our family and friends.

"Workers, even those with interesting, high status jobs, really are happier on the weekend," says lead study author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology. "Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual's well-being. 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."

The study: The team tracked the moods of 74 adults, all of whom were between the ages of 18 and 62 and worked at least 30 hours a week. For three weeks, participants were paged randomly at three times during the day, once in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. At each page, participants completed a brief questionnaire describing the activity in which they were engaged and, using a seven-point scale, rated their positive feelings, including happiness, joy and pleasure, as well as negative feelings of anxiety, anger and depression. Physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, digestive problems, respiratory ills or low energy were also noted.

The results:

  • Men and women both consistently feel better mentally and physically on the weekend.
  • They feel better regardless of how much money they make, how many hours they work, how educated they are or whether they work in the trades, the service industry or in a professional capacity.
  • They feel better whether they are single, married, living together, divorced or widowed.
  • They feel better regardless of age.

The findings indicate that relative to workdays, weekends are associated with higher levels of freedom and closeness. People are involved in activities of their own choosing and spend time with more intimate friends and family members. Surprisingly, the analysis also found that people feel more competent during the weekend than they do at their day-to-day jobs.

The results support self-determination theory, which holds that well-being depends in large part on meeting one's basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness.

The study findings were published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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