All Work, No Play

Americans are richer than ever, yet they’re still not happy.
Some researchers believe less leisure time is to blame
n by Christine Tognetti Staff Writer

Hard work literally has been paying off for some Americans, but not without a mental cost.

As citizens of one of the richest nations in the world, Americans are earning more money than ever. But recent reports say even with extra money in their pockets, some Americans are unhappy. What’s to blame? Some researchers point fingers at a lack of leisure time.

A recent study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research said that although income has increased in the United States during the past three decades, happiness has declined. In 1957, 53 percent of Americans considered themselves “very happy,” according to the study. By the early ’70s, only 34 percent expressed the same level of satisfaction, and since then, the statistic has dropped to 30 percent.

In 1950, Americans had the highest income, the highest labor productivity and the shortest work year of any country except Australia by 160 hours per year, according to The Ultimate Field Guide to the U.S. Economy by Gerald Friedman.

Times have changed. Now, Americans work more than any other affluent country, with 200-plus more hours of work more than the British, 300 hours more than the French and 400 hours more than Germans, according to Friedman.

More working hours means less time spent enjoying leisure activities as well as less time with family members.

Instead of sitting down at a table and sharing lunch with her kids this week, Hollister resident Vivian Sarias was sitting in her car, stopped in the line of the drive-through at Panda Express in Gilroy. Although she stays home with the kids, Sarias said her husband works too much.

“We see less and less of him,” she said.

Although she gets the two weeks of vacation time a year most Americans, publicist Kati Schmidt often has to work weekends, and her days off are scattered.

“I don’t typically get my days off in a row, so it’s hard to relax,” she said while rushing out of Starbucks on Camino Arroyo Drive in Gilroy. “Sometimes it feels like my job never stops. “

Gilroy resident John Sanchez summed up well a typical American’s day:

“I only have 30 minutes for lunch, and I wanted something good so I ran here,” he said as he grabbed some takeout for lunch this week at Panda Express. “I work way too much. Sometimes it feels like I’m on a hamster wheel.”

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