Do you spend most of your week waiting for Friday, i.e., TGIF (thank God it’s Friday)?  Many of us do.  I admit, I am happy to see the weekend roll around, but it comes and goes too quickly, so I’ve focused on enjoying each day.  More heart attacks occur on Monday morning, because, I believe people don’t want to go to work, due to the stresses they face at the worksite.


University of Rochester psychologist Richard Ryan, Ph.D,  Kirk Brown, Ph.D,  a professor from Virginia Commonwealth University and  Jerry Bernstein, Ph.D., from McGill University Ph.D., Jessey Bernstein, found evidence to support the conventional wisdom that weekends are more enjoyable than weekdays.  They also gained insight as to why the weekends are critical to our physical and emotional health and well-being.


The researchers evaluated the moods of 74 adults between the ages of 18 to 62 who worked at least 30 hours per week.  For 21 days, the participants were randomly contacted via pagers three times throughout the day and asked to complete a brief questionnaire describing the activity they were engaged in at that moment.  They rated their feelings on a scale, positive feelings such as happiness, joy and pleasure, along with negative feelings such as anxiety, anger and depression. Also, the group reported headaches, low energy, respiratory illnesses and digestive problems, all physical signs of stress.   


People from all walks of life, secretaries, blue collar workers, such as construction laborers,  to lawyers and doctors were included in the study.


Regardless of their occupation, they all experience more vitality, and fewer aches and pains from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, concludes the first study of daily mood variation in employed adults to be published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. And that ‘weekend effect’ is largely associated with the freedom to choose one’s activities and the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, the research found.

“Workers, even those with interesting, high status jobs, really are happier on the weekend,” says author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual’s well-being.” Ryan adds. “Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing — basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork,” Dr. Ryan cautions.


The results show that weekends are viewed as having more freedom and closeness; people often noted more frequently there were involving in activities of their choice and spending more time with family and close friends. Interestingly, people have the feeling of greater competency than they do while at their daily job.  Almost everyone, including workaholics – should look forward to the weekend, because of its benefits.


This study suggests that people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and occupation do physically and emotionally feel better during weekends.  They’re feel better regardless of how much money they make, how many hours they work, how educated they happen to be, or whether they work in the trades, the service industry, or in a professional capacity. They feel better whether they are single, married, living together, divorced, or widowed. And, age is irrelevant.  The study’s participants in the study often reported better moods, greater vitality, and fewer aches and pains from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon as compared with the rest of the week.


To determine why weekend hours are so magical, the researchers asked participants to indicate whether they felt controlled versus autonomous in the task they were engaged in at the time of the pager signal. Participants also indicated how close they felt to others present and how competent they perceived themselves to be at their activity.


The results support self-determination theory, which holds that well-being depends in large part on meeting one’s basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This study, conclude the authors, “offers one of the first substantive and theory-based explanations for why wellbeing tends to be more favorable on the weekends: People experience greater autonomy and relatedness, which are, in turn, related to higher wellness.”


The authors wrote, the work week “is filled with activities involving external controls, time pressures, and demands on behavior related to work, child care and other constraints.” Workers also may spend time among colleagues with whom they share limited emotional connections.

Questions were also posed regarding how work environments can be formulated to be more supportive of wellness.  Dr. Ryan noted, “To the extent that daily life, including work, affords a sense of autonomy, relatedness, and competence, well-being may be higher and more stable, rather than regularly rising and falling.


“Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual’s well-being,” Ryan said.