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Buy time to be happier, says University of British Columbia study
2017-07-25 12:13:08
Liza Tan

Some immigrants to the US from Asia eventually return home after living some time abroad.Although the standard of living in the United States andincome is higher, life is fast paced and often compared to a rat race.In contrast, in their home countries, even if they are not rich, they could afford hiredhelp which frees them to do other things and allow them to enjoy a less stressful lifestyle.

Such kind of a lifestyle provides more satisfaction in life and leads to happiness.A University of British Columbia study, published on July 24 in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, stated that people who buy time by paying someone to do householdchores have more satisfaction in life.  The findings applies to a wide range of incomes, careers, and nations.

However, few people think of spending money by buying time which the study found had a correlation to less stress related to time and more positivefeelings.Buying time does not just apply to household tasks, it can also apply to other decisions such as using the toll bridge -- which requires payment --to cut travel time and reach the destination earlier, The Washington Post reported.

Completing unpleasant daily tasks

All people have their pet peeves when it comes to daily tasks that they would rather not do.It could be washing the dishes, throwing out the garbage atnight, or cleaning the toilet.For wealthy people, it may not be an issue because they have paid staff to do these unpleasant chores.In some third-worldnations where household help is available without costing the family an arm and leg, the burden is passed on to the maid, ironing lady, or the driver.

For the study, Ashley Whillans, a social psychologist and doctorate student at the Canadian university, conducted seven surveys  with more than 6,000respondents in four countries, namely the US, Canada, Denmark, and The Netherlands.The study involved also researchers at two institutes in TheNetherlands.

The poll asked the respondents if they regularly pay someone to complete unpleasant everyday tasks.They were also asked to rate their satisfactionwith life.The survey found that the respondents who regularly spend money to save time have higher life satisfaction.It applied to people whatever wastheir household income, number of hours they worked weekly, whether they were single or married, and the number of kids who live in their home. 

The researchers took into consideration the total disposable income of the respondents by a comparison of their expenditures on life's necessities suchas groceries, unnecessary purchases, and life experiences.The study, titled "Buying time promotes happiness," found that working American adultsenjoyed higher life satisfaction if they pay regularly someone to perform household tasks such as shopping, general maintenance, and cooking.

Personal experience of time famine

The study is relevant because even if incomes are rising in many countries, more people feel pressed for time that affect their well-being, according tothe authors of the study, led by Whillans.In spite of the rise of income in many countries in recent decades, a new form of poverty was observed aspeople report more time scarcity due to longer travel times, more demands from the workplace, and other distractions in life.When people suffer fromtime stress, they experience lower well-being such as reduced happiness, more anxiety, and insomnia.The other impacts of time stress on modernlifestyle include rising rates of obesity, failure to exercise regularly, and inability to eat healthy food.

 Whillians, who was recently hired by Harvard Business School as an assistant professor, had to migrate with her husband to Cambridge, Massachusetts,and she found the experience overwhelming, CNN reported.  With the big move, she experienced time famine and recalled her study. "We find thatspending money on time-saving purchases promotes daily happiness and reduces negative mood, because it protects us from the time stress that wecould feel in our daily lives," she said.Whillians shared that in the last few weeks, she used time-saving services such as grocery delivery, house cleaning,vehicle services such as Lyft or Uber, and lawn-mowing done by a teen.

Happiness and health

Besides the study by Whillians, Time Magazine reported that another research, published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, reviewedstudies on mental health and happiness.Edward Diener, a professor of social psychology at the University of Utah, said the study confirmed thathappiness can influence health.He explained that when people are happy, they take better care of themselves and opt for healthy behaviors.  Theyexercise, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. 

The review found a link between happiness and a positive impact on the human cardiovascular and immune systems, influence inflammation andhormones levels, and enables faster healing of wounds.However, it applies only in some instances because it works for some people but not for others.Diener pointed out that the situation is like smoking cigarettes in which some people who smoke live a century, while others -- who never smoked alltheir lives -- die of cancer at 50. "Being happy certainly isn't a guarantee that you're going to be healthy, and it's true that some studies haven't found aneffect," Diener said.


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