The key to happiness: time with friends or family?

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A study carried out in the United States investigated the levels of well-being they produce.

Do you think that spending time with your children and your partner is the key to your happiness? In fact, getting together with your friends can add a higher dose, according to a study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The research, conducted by a team from Southern Methodist University and Michigan State University (United States), found people report higher levels of well-being when they are together with their friends than when they are with their partner or children. In fact, being close to the couple predicted the less amount of happiness between these three groups.

The psychology professor Nathan Hudson, who led the study, emphasized, however, that the finding has more to do with the activities that are carried out than with the people with whom it is shared. This is because people tend to spend more time doing nice activities with friends than with family members, who occasionally find themselves together doing less friendly tasks, such as housework or caring.

“Our study suggests that this has nothing to do with the fundamental nature of relationships between relatives and friends,” Hudson said. Outside of activities, the presence of children, couples and friends predicted similar levels of happiness, he pointed. “Therefore, this document provides an optimistic view of the family and suggests that people genuinely enjoy their partners and children.”

The more than 400 study participants were asked to think about moments with their friends or family, identify the activity they shared, and rate whether those experiences elicited positive emotions, such as happiness and satisfaction. Each emotion was scored from 0 (almost never) to 6 (almost always).

This information and other answers about how the study participants felt at different times allowed the researchers estimate happiness rates with your friends and family.

Activities that people most frequently engage in while with romantic partners include socialize, relax and eat. People tend to do similar activities when they are with their friends.

The key, it seems, is in the quantity: many more of these pleasant activities are shared with friends, while with the family more time is spent linked to housework. According to the survey carried out for the study, 65% of the experiences with friends involved socialization, more than double that registered in a family context (28%).

Spending time with the children also meant more time to do things that had a negative association, such as housework and commuting, like taking them from one place to another.

However, the activity that people most frequently reported with their children, childcare, was rated positively. And, in general, people report that they feel similar levels of well-being while in the presence of friends, partners and children once the activity is out of the equation.

“It is important create opportunities for positive experiences with partners and children, and mentally savor those moments. By contrast, family relationships that involve nothing more than housework and childcare probably won’t predict much happiness, “Hudson concluded.


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