Are you constantly frustrated by the amount of time children spend glued to their phones, texting with friends while virtually ignoring your existence? You might want to grin and bear it just a bit, mom and dad. New research on well-being conducted by bestselling authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter, PhD, reveals that a robust sense of well-being requires six hours a day of social interaction.
Well-being is the sense of contentment and happiness one feels about life, and it makes a difference. Previous research has demonstrated that people who have a strong sense of well-being are healthier, happier, less likely to miss work for illness, more likely to get good grades in school, and more productive. This is the first study to demonstrate that achieving that well-being – even for introverts – requires five to six hours of social interaction each day.
The two-part study involving more than 17,000 American adults broke the participants into age groups: Millennials (ages 18-30), Gen-Xers (ages 31-46), Baby Boomers (ages 47-65), and Traditionalists (age 65 and up). Generational differences were apparent, with Millennials spending most of their time with friends, siblings, roommates, and family and Traditionalists spending most of their time with neighbors, grandchildren, and non-work friends. The Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers spent the majority of their time with their co-workers, colleagues, supervisors, and children.
Regardless of the age group to which the participants belonged, the results of the research were clear: to have a strong sense of well-being, five to six hours per day of socializing was necessary. Text messaging and social media interactions were the most abundant methods of social interaction in the youngest age group. Talking on the phone, watching TV, and exercising with friends was popular among the oldest groups.
For all of the age groups, a strong sense of well-being was associated with more social interaction up to a specific point, with the best results occurring when you use 20-40% of your wakeful time socializing in some way. In fact, much more than that amount of time and the gain in mood becomes slight, with no gain at all after 60%. Well-being increases the most with a social connection to one person, incrementally increasing with each additional social connection.
There is some good news for bosses who want to keep water-cooler time at a reasonable level: the best improvements in well-being came from socialization with non-work friends rather than with colleagues. And while online social interactions are beneficial to all age groups, in-person socializing had the greatest benefit, particularly when activities were planned.