By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In a national survey of over 31 thousand college students, about 31% of college students report stress impacting their academics, followed by anxiety (25%), and depression (16%). (1).

Excessive stress can also lead to depression and anxiety (2).

Leisure activities can play a role in stress management which can help with academics and with mental health.

What is leisure?

One definition of leisure activity is pleasurable activities that individuals engage in voluntarily when they are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities (3).

Are there studies on leisure activities and wellbeing?

A study by Trainor and colleagues looked at leisure activities and psychological well being (4).

Who was studied?

947 students were asked about social, non-social and unstructured leisure activities as well as measures of personality.

What were the results?
spare-time use may be related to well-being only insofar as individuals who are psychologically healthy tend to be involved in structured, supervised, goal oriented, leisure activities, such as sports with others and playing music with healthy peers (4).

What are some caveats?

This is a small cross sectional study which can tell us about association but not cause and effect.

The study was published in 2012, and newer leisure activities have become common, which may or may not be healthy (social media, online-gaming, active video gaming, interactive phone apps, etc).

What are some examples of healthy leisure activities (5)?

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Clubs/fellowship, and religious group participation
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Playing or watching sports
  • Hobbies

Also consider:

  • Working out or taking exercise classes
  • Meditating
  • Volunteering
  • Participating in an activities based student organization
  • Journaling
  • Drawing/coloring/painting

Anything else that can help?

In addition to leisure activities, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits(healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy

sleep habits, etc.) (5)

  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc) (5)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.

Different people might benefit from different types of play during leisure time. What type of play is best for you?

Are there any campus resources on play?

Any other useful resources on campus?

Learn more about play:

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
  2. Khan S, Khan RA (2017) Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Ann Psychiatry Ment Health 5(1): 1091.
  3. Zhang J, Zheng Y.  How do academic stress and leisure activities influence college students’ emotional well-being? A daily diary investigation. J Adolesc. 2017 Oct;60:114-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 23.
  4. Trainor, P. Delfabbro, S. Anderson, A. Winefield. Leisure activities and adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 33 (1) (2010), pp. 173-186.
  5. Pressman, S. D, et. al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being. Psychosomatic Medicine: September 2009 – Volume 71 – Issue 7 – pp 725-732 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978Top of Form

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