How do cultural activities influence happiness? Investigating the relationship between self-reported well-being and leisure

  • Victoria Ateca-Amestoy Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea
  • Mariana Gerstenblüth Universidad de la República de Uruguay
  • Irene Mussio Universidad de la República de Uruguay
  • Máximo Rossi Universidad de la República de Uruguay
Keywords: happiness, leisure, culture, well-being
JEL Classification: I30, Z10, Z11


Leisure is a human condition related to the discretionary use of time in a rewarding way that contributes to individual well-being. Individuals decide to engage on cultural activities to enjoy pleasant experiences. Cultural participation can be explained in different dimension, considering how the individual access those cultural experiences: by live attendance, by home consumption, by community practice. We find that the magnitude of the positive effect of cultural activities on the top happiness goes in this descending order: cinema going, participating in cultural events, listening to music, reading books and watching TV.


Ateca-Amestoy, V. 2011. Leisure and subjective well-being, in S. Cameron (ed.), Handbook on the Economics of Leisure, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Becchetti, L., E.G. Ricca, and A. Pelloni. 2012. The relationship between social leisure and life satisfaction: Causality and policy implications, Social Indicators Research, 108(3): 453-490.

Becker, G.S. 1965. A theory of the allocation of time, Economic Journal, 75: 493-508.

Binder, M. and A. Coad. 2013. “I’m afraid I have bad news for you...” Estimating the impact of different health impairments on subjective well-being, Social Science and Medicine, 87: 155-167.

Bjørnskov, C., A. Dreher, and J. Fischer. 2008. Cross-country determinants of life satisfaction: Exploring different determinants across groups in society, Social Choice and Welfare, 30(1): 119-173.

Boes, S. and R.Winkelmann. 2006. The effect of income on positive and negative subjective well-being, IZA Discussion Papers, no. 1175.

Bourdieu, P. 1984. Distinction: A social critique on the judgment of tastes, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Borgonovi, F. 2004. Performing Arts: An economic approach, Applied Economics, 36: 1871-1885.

Bruni, L. and L. Stanca. 2008. Watching alone: Relational goods, television and happiness, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 65: 506-528.

Carroll, N. 2007. Unemployment and psychological well-being, The Economic Record, 83(262): 287-302.

Cunningham, A.M., and C. Knoester. 2007. Marital status, gender, and parents; psychological well-being, Sociological Inquiry, 77(2): 264-287.

Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, (DCMS), United Kingdom, 2010. CASE: The cultural and sport evidence programme. Understanding the impact of engagement in cultural and sports, referenced in: we do/research and statistics/5698.aspx

Diener, E., and R. E. Lucas. 2000. Explaining differences in societal levels of happiness: Relative standards, need fulfillment, culture, and evaluation theory, Journal of Happiness Studies, 1: 41-78.

Diener, E., S. Oishi, and R. E. Lucas. 2003. Personality, culture, and subjective well-being: Emotional and cognitive evaluations of life, Annual Review of Psychology, 54: 403-425.

Dreher, A., and H. Öhler. 2011. Does government ideology affect personal happiness? A test, Economics Letters, 111(2): 161-165.

Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. and P. Frijters. 2004. How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness? Economic Journal, 114: 641-659.

Frey, B. S. 2008. Cities, culture and happiness, Ethos, World Cities Summit Issue, June, pp. 102-111.

Frey, B. S. and A. Stutzer, A. 2002. What can economists learn from happiness research?, Journal of Economic Literature, 40: 402-435.

Frey, B. S., C. Benesch, and A. Stutzer. 2007, Does watching TV make us happy, Journal of Economic Psychology, 28: 283-131.

Graham, C. 2005. The economics of happiness. Insights on globalization from a novel approach, World Economics, 6(3): 51-55.

Green, M. and M. Elliott. 2010. Religion, health, and psychological well-being, Journal of Religion and Health, 49(2): 149-163.

Grossi, E., P. L. Sacco, G. Tavano-Blessi, and R. Cerruti. 2010. The impact of culture on the individual subjective well-being of the Italian population: An exploratory study, Applied Research in Quality of Life, 6(4): 387-410.

Gui, B. and L. Stanca. 2010. Happiness and relational goods: Well-being and interpersonal relations in the economic sphere, International Review of Economics, 57(2): 105-118.

Hampshire, K. R. and M. Matthijsse. 2010. Can arts projects improve young people’s well-being? A social capital approach, Social Science & Medicine, 71: 708-716.

International Labor Organization. 1988. International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO).

International Social Survey Programme (ISSP). 2007. Description of the Survey:

Ismail, Z., and S. Deshmukh. 2012. Religiosity and psychological well-being, International Journal of Business and Social Science, 3(11): 20-28.

Iwasaki, Y. 2007. Leisure and quality of life in an international and multicultural context: What are the major pathways linking leisure to quality of life, Social Indicators Research, 82: 233-264.

Kahneman, D., A. Krueger, D. Schkade, N. Schwarz, and A. Stone. 2006. Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion, Science, 312: 19081910.

Katz-Gerro, T. 2011. Cross-national cultural consumption research: Inspirations and disillusions, K¨olner Zeitschrift f¨ur Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 51: 339-360.

Kelly, J. R. 1982. Leisure, Prentice-Hall, NJ.

Krueger, A. B, and A. I. Mueller. 2012. Time use, emotional well-being, and unemployment: Evidence from longitudinal data, American Economic Review, 102(3): 594-599.

Lamont, M., and V. Molnar. 2001. How blacks use consumption to shape their collective identity: Evidence from marketing specialists, Journal of Consumer Culture, 1: 3146.

Lemon, B. W., V. L. Bengtson, and J. A. Peterson. 1972. An exploration of the activity theory of aging: Activity types and life satisfaction among in-movers to a retirement community, Journal of Gerontology, 27(4): 511-523.

Lim, L. L. and E. Kua. 2011. Living alone, loneliness, and psychological wellbeing of older persons in Singapore, Current Gerontology & Geriatrics Research, vol. 2011 (2011), article ID 673181, 9 pages.

Merz, J. and B. Scherg. 2013. Polarization of time and income- A multidimensional approach with well-being gap and minimum 2DGAP: Germany, evidence, IZA Discussion Paper, no. 7418.

Michalos, A. 2005. Arts and the quality of life: An exploratory study, Social Indicators Research, 71: 11-59.

Michalos, A. and P. M. Kahlke. 2010. Arts and the perceived quality of life in British Columbia, Social Indicators Research, 96: 1-39.

Mookherjee, H. N. 1997. Marital status, gender, and perception of well-being, Journal of Social Psychology, 137(1): 95-105.

Nezlek, J. B., D. S. Richardson, L. R. Green, and L. C. Schatten-Jones. 2002. Psychological well-being and day-to-day social interaction among older adults, Personal Relationships, 9(1): 57-71.

O’Hagan, J. and C. Castiglione. 2010. European statistics on cultural attendance and participation and their international comparability, ESA Research Network Sociology of Culture Midterm Conference: Culture and the Making of Worlds,

Osberg, Lars. 2008. Leisure, en S.N. Durlauf, and L.E. Blume (eds.) The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, second edition, Palgrave Macmillan.

Rodríguez, A., P. Látková and Y. Y. Sun. 2008. The relationship between leisure and life satisfaction: Application of activity and need theory, Social Indicators Research, 86: 163-175.

Schuster, M. 2007. Participation studies and cross-national comparison: Proliferation, prudence, and possibility in the arts and culture, Cultural Trends, 16(2): 99-196.

Shapiro, A. and C. Keyes. 2008. Marital status and social well-being: Are the married always better off? Social Indicators Research, 88(2): 329-346.

Skeggs, B. 1997. Formations of Class and Gender, London, Sage.

Stiglitz, J. E., A. Sen, and J. P. Fitoussi. 2009. Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, European Commission, Paris,

UNESCO. 2009. UNESCO framework for cultural statistics, Montreal, Institute of Statistics.

Uhrig, S. C. N. 2005. Cinema is good for you: The effects of cinema attendance on self reported anxiety or depression and “happiness”, ISER Working Paper005-14,

Veblen, T. B. 1899. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions, London, Macmillan Publishers.

Wang, M. and M. C. S. Wong. 2011. Leisure and happiness in the United States: evidence from survey data, Applied Economics Letters, 18(18): 1813-1816.

Winkelmann, R. 2009. Unemployment, social capital, and subjective well-being, Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(4): 421-430.

How to Cite
Ateca-AmestoyV., GerstenblüthM., MussioI., & RossiM. (2016). How do cultural activities influence happiness? Investigating the relationship between self-reported well-being and leisure. Estudios Económicos, 31(2), 217-234.
  • Abstract viewed - 897 times
  • PDF downloaded: 212 times
  • . downloaded: 0 times
  • XML downloaded: 0 times