Mind & Mood

Having a hobby tied to happiness and well-being

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By , Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

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Check those holiday gifts: if you received one that can get you started on a new hobby, it might be the gift that keeps on giving. A study published online Sept. 11, 2023, by Nature Medicine suggests that having a hobby is good for your health, mood, and more. Researchers combed through five large studies involving more than 93,000 people across 16 countries (including the United States, Japan, China, and a dozen European countries). Participants were all ages 65 or older, and more than 60% had longstanding mental or physical health conditions. They periodically answered questionnaires about their health and well-being, and were followed for four to eight years. Compared with people who didn't have hobbies, those who did reported better health, more happiness, fewer symptoms of depression, and higher life satisfaction. The findings were similar across all countries. The study is observational and doesn't prove that hobbies caused people to be healthy and happy. But the researchers say hobbies — such as arts and crafts, games, gardening, volunteering, or participating in clubs — involve creativity, sensory engagement, self-expression, relaxation, and cognitive stimulation, which are linked to good mental health and well-being. Plus, taking part in hobby groups keeps you socially connected, which helps reduce loneliness and isolation.

Image: © Burak Karademir/Getty Images

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About the Author

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Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman

About the Reviewer

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Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff is the Steven P. Simcox/Patrick A. Clifford/James H. Higby Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and editor in chief of the Harvard … See Full Bio
View all posts by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD

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