21st Century Family: Hobbies Help

ByABC News
February 4, 2004, 4:17 PM

Feb. 9 -- Here's some news for a society with a strong worth ethic: Play is good for you, adults as well as children.

"Participating in leisure activities contributes to your physical and mental health and overall life satisfaction. You're healthier, happier and more cheerful. You enjoy life more," says Howard E.A. Tinsley, professor emeritus of psychology at Southern Illinois University and author of Psychological Benefits of Leisure Participation, a summary of 15 years of his research that involved interviewing 4,000 people with hobbies.

Results were similar for a variety of groups, from high school students to widows.

"People who were more active in leisure activities reported greater satisfaction of life; they scored higher on standardized tests about satisfaction," Tinsley says.

Such also people appear to function better in society. David Schlenoff, a psychologist for the Baltimore County Public Schools, studies the psychology of hobbies and collecting. He's an avid collector himself, collecting and restoring antique cars and motorcycles. He explains why hobbies are good for us.

"As a psychologist, for me to help someone I work with, I need to be as well balanced as I can be," he says. "To do the best I can for my family, I need to be relaxed, I need to be centered. If hobbies provide that much-needed centering and relaxation, then you're more available to the people you love and work with."

Everyone in the family should have hobbies, he adds.

"It's very healthy for children to have hobbies," he says. While it's not uncommon for children to pick up on their parents' hobbies, they should be exposed to a variety of interests so they can pick up their own., he adds.

How do They Help?

Just why do hobbies benefit us so? Theories vary.