Boredom is More Complex Than You Imagined – Plus Its Bad for Your Health

Boredom is a universal experience, but too much of it can harm your health.

By View Apart/Shutterstock
By View Apart/Shutterstock

“The cure for boredom is curiosity,” said writer and great wit Dorothy Parker. “There is no cure for curiosity.”

Being bored seems to be a hopelessly modern condition. But it likely isn’t.

“It is such a universal, human experience,” said Jacqueline Gottlieb, a neuroscientist at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute who recently convened a group of leading scholars in the field for a discussion.

“Yet, there is a lack of knowledge about boredom. Until recently, scientists paid it little attention.”

The gathered researchers looked at how boredom affects decision-making, relationships, and behavior. They came to the conclusion that ennui did more harm than it did good for the soul, looking at past research to come to the following points:

Boredom is common. The majority, 63%, of American adults experienced boredom at least once every 10 days.

Whether you’re bored depends on your demographics. One study from Carnegie Mellon found that boredom is even more common in men, youth, those who haven’t married, and those with lower incomes.

Boredom depends on what your problems are. It’s associated with those who are prone to depression, anxiety, anger, poor academics, bad work performance, and loneliness and isolation.

Many people would choose pain over being bored. During the research, a team of psychologists at the University of Virginia discovered that 2/3 of men and 1/4 of women would rather shock themselves with electricity rather than be left to sit in an empty room alone for 15 minutes.

Feeling the blahs exists on a continuum. There’s “transient” boredom, which is temporary, and chronic boredom, which lasts an extended period of time. Chronic boredom is dangerous, linked with impulsivity and risky behavior, like reckless driving, gambling, drug and alcohol use, and other self-destructive behaviors. In fact, boredom is a top reason for addicts to relapse on their drug of choice.

One group that doesn’t get as bored, according to a study: the religious. Everyone from agnostics, atheists, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and the non-religious people participated in a mundane task.

Originally published on Ladders.

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