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Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being

Pressman, Sarah D. PhD; Matthews, Karen A. PhD; Cohen, Sheldon PhD; Martire, Lynn M. PhD; Scheier, Michael PhD; Baum, Andrew PhD; Schulz, Richard PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978
Original Articles

Objective: To examine whether engaging in multiple enjoyable activities was associated with better psychological and physiological functioning. Few studies have examined the health benefits of the enjoyable activities that individuals participate in voluntarily in their free time.

Method: Participants from four different studies (n = 1399 total, 74% female, age = 19–89 years) completed a self-report measure (Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test (PEAT)) assessing their participation in ten different types of leisure activities as well as measures assessing positive and negative psychosocial states. Resting blood pressure, cortisol (over 2 days), body mass index, waist circumference, and perceived physiological functioning were assessed.

Results: Higher PEAT scores were associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index, and perceptions of better physical function. These associations withstood controlling for demographic measures. The PEAT was correlated with higher levels of positive psychosocial states and lower levels of depression and negative affect.

Conclusion: Enjoyable leisure activities, taken in the aggregate, are associated with psychosocial and physical measures relevant for health and well-being. Future studies should determine the extent that these behaviors in the aggregate are useful predictors of disease and other health outcomes.

PEAT = Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Index; SBP = systolic blood pressure; DBP = diastolic blood pressure; BMI = body mass index; WC = waist circumference; SES = socioeconomic status..

From the Department of Psychology (S.D.P.), University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas; Department of Psychiatry (K.A.M., L.M.M., R.S.), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Department of Psychology (S.C., M.S.), Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; University Center for Social and Urban Research (L.M.M., R.S.), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the Department of Psychology (A.B.), University of Texas at Arlington, Irvine, Texas.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Karen Matthews, Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. E-mail:

Received for publication July 11, 2008; revision received March 11, 2009.

This study was supported by Grants HL076852 (K.A.M.), HL076858 (M.S.), and HL07650 (S.D.P.) from the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright © 2009 by American Psychosomatic Society
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