Youth leisure time in research 2009

(In Finnish: Aika vapaalla. Nuorten vapaa-aikatutkimus 2009)

Sami Myllyniemi
Youth Research Network 2009

In this publication I investigate young people’s leisure activities in the year 2009. Findings are based on telephone interviews with 10-29-year-olds, 1200 of which were conducted in February of 2009. This publication is a continuation of the surveys of organizational commitment conducted by the Youth Policy Division of the Ministry of Education in 1998 and 2001, but chronological comparisons stretch back to the 1950s. The leisure perspective has also been explored more broadly on previous occasions. In addition to the activities of organizations, societies and other providers of structured activities, leisure is considered here from a more voluntary perspective. Subjects being considered include friendships and family relations, intoxicants, public policies and conditions in the childhood home. This publication is divided up into four thematic units: the nature of leisure, leisure spent doing and being, leisure in communal activities, and then young people’s satisfaction with different areas of life.

Approximately 45% of the respondents in this survey are active in or members of some organization, and of them just under half participate in activities weekly. Participation in youth organizations has dropped in the past decade. This drop has occurred both in the number of organizations and in the level of activity within those which remain. We also see a critique of organized activities on the attitudinal level in that nearly half of all young people feel that leisure activities are enjoyable to participate in so long as they do not have to become a member of anything.

Participation in organizational activities has decreased especially in the youngest, under 15-year-old age group. Pre-teens and early teens are also more likely than other age groups to be of the opinion that organizational activity is old fashioned. It says something about the challenges of serving this age group that less than half of them find the youth activities organized in their residential areas interesting. Where minority young people are participating in organizations, they are even less likely to participate in concrete activities – about one in three of them taking part. Approximately the same number believe that they will still be involved two years from now. Participation in planning and organizing activities is down to less than one in five, and committee membership or equivalent responsibility is taken up by less than one in ten.

Participation in leisure activities organized outside of formal organizations occurs among about a third of young people; random hobbies or leisure groups, about 40%. Individual hobbies, on the other hand, are found among nearly two thirds of Finnish young people, and nearly nine out of ten respondents had some sort of hobby. In contrast with organizational activity, there is a correlation between participation in random activities and young people being more satisfied with their leisure time.

Under 15-year-olds also participate less in hobbies outside of organizations or in leisure activities. Instead this youngest group of respondents tended to have the most good friends. They also met up with friends more often. Both the number of friends and the amount of time spent with them clearly decrease with age. In comparison with data from earlier generations, there has been an especially marked increase in the number of strong friendships with members of the opposite sex. The frequency of meetings with friends, however, has decreased in recent years. In particular the number of those who meet with friends on a nearly daily basis has dropped notably in all age groups. At the same time contact by phone or the Internet has increased among young people of all ages.

Young people also see their parents less often that they did still in the 1990s. Unlike the case with friends, this has not been offset by an increase in telephone or Internet contact with parents. Young people do, however, consider their child/parent relationships to be in quite good shape, with only a small minority considering them to be problematic. Generally speaking both girls and boys considered their relationships with their mothers to be better than those with their fathers. Where children had weak relationships with their parents, there tended to be a clear correlation with alcohol use in the childhood home.

Young people’s well-being was also investigated by asking them to evaluate their satisfaction with various areas of life using the standard school grading scale of 4-10. The vast majority of young people seemed satisfied with their lives: the most common marks given were eights and nines, and it was particularly rare to give poor grades to any particular area of life. Satisfaction with life as a whole has not changed significantly, but satisfaction with leisure and especially economic conditions have declined. Satisfaction with one’s health and personal relationships are the strongest indicators of satisfaction with life in general.