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Higher wellbeing among young people with varied cultural leisure activities

Finnish Youth Research Society & State Youth Council

Young people engaging in varied cultural activities experience higher wellbeing than others and the satisfaction in wellbeing is higher the more varied the cultural activities are. The satisfaction is seen both as general satisfaction with life and as satisfaction with free time, health and human relations. Correspondingly, the wellbeing of young people with unvaried cultural leisure activities is slightly lower. This is indicated by the results of the new Study of children and young people’s leisure activities, focusing on cultural, art and media activities.

The selection of leisure activities as the cross-cutting theme for the study is due to the fact that they are topical at present. The so-called Finnish model is the central government’s major effort to bring children and young people’s leisure activities closer to the school day and promote equal opportunities for leisure activities. This is an important reform, as its successful implementation will significantly change the culture of Finnish children and young people’s leisure activities. Hence the study of children and young people’s leisure activities is a natural subject of discussion alongside the major societal reform.

– The topical issues relating to children and young people’s leisure activities are important not only for the wellbeing of children and young people, but equally so for the public funding and societal justification of parties that organise leisure activities, and the educational principles of the society as a whole. Leisure activities in general increase wellbeing and inclusion and prevent social exclusion, but any leisure activity, however organised, will not intrinsically achieve these positive impacts, says Mikko Salasuo, Leading Senior Researcher of the Finnish Youth Research Network, editor of the publication.

Growing significance of the media causes conflicts

The share of young people considering media use as very important has increased from the 2015 study of leisure activities, in all sectors except in following celebrities and idols. The most common reasons for media use, experienced as very important, include contacts with friends (79%) and information searches (74%). Perhaps slightly surprisingly, media use was not considered that important in influencing, as that was the response by only every fourth young respondent. Social media, in particular, has been a globally important channel for communicating about social injustice for example. For young people in Finland, however, the significance of social media seems to be more entertaining and social than societal and political, which can be interpreted as an indication of social stability.

Young people’s active media use also causes disagreement in families. The results indicate that in most cases, gaming and internet use most often cause disagreement between young people aged 7–14, and their parents. In particular, boys and their parents disagree about gaming: over 60 per cent of boys aged 7–14 say that their gaming sometimes, or often, results in arguments with parents. Girls, too, disagree with their parents about the amount of gaming, but among girls, there is clearly less disagreement as the girls get older. Approximately one half of parents of young people aged 7–14 reported disagreements caused by internet use.

Parents also control young people’s media use with technical tools. The results indicate that more than every third parent sometimes or often restrict their 7–14-year old child’s phone use. Approximately one in five parents of youngsters in the same age group comment that they monitor their child’s location using technical tools.

– This subject has not been studied much before, and the results force us to consider the limits of children’s privacy. The topic has been discussed to a certain extent in public, but I have not seen any very unequivocal policies myself. As the world around us goes digital, and a smartphone is acquired for an increasing number of younger and younger children, will monitoring the location of children or youngsters become a permanent parenting practice? Salasuo asks.   

Negative side-effects related to young people’s leisure

The study also examined bullying and social exclusion experienced in their free time by young people aged 10–29. Approximately one in five young persons reported having been bullied or discriminated against online. Two per cent of the respondents reported that bullying and discrimination happened often. Most commonly, young people encounter inappropriate treatment in restaurants, bars and cafés.

A separate question was asked about experiences of bullying and discrimination in art, culture and media as leisure activities. Belonging to any minority makes young people vulnerable to inappropriate treatment in art, culture and media as leisure activities. The same result was revealed in the previous study of children and young people’s leisure activities, published in 2018, focussing particularly on sports and exercise. It is noteworthy that young people report having experienced bullying, discrimination and inappropriate treatment not only by their peers, but adults as well.

– Inappropriate treatment must not be permitted in any leisure activity whatsoever. On the contrary, leisure activities should prevent bullying, and any form of inappropriate conduct must be addressed, says Amanda Pasanen, Vice Chair of the State Youth Council.

More information

Mikko Salasuo
Leading Senior Researcher, the Finnish Youth Research Network
tel. +358 40 548 5520

Amanda Pasanen
Vice Chair, the State Youth Council
tel. +358 40 961 1330

Details of the publication

Harrastamisen äärellä. Lasten ja nuorten vapaa-aikatukimus 2020 -teoksen kansikuva.

Mikko Salasuo (ed.) About leisure activities – Study of children and young people’s leisure activities 2020 (in Finnish: Harrastamisen äärellä. Lasten ja nuorten vapaa-aikatutkimus 2020)
ISBN 978-952-372-020-6 (unbound), ISBN 978-952-372-021-3 (PDF), State Youth Council publications ISSN 1455-268X (printed), no 68, State Youth Council publications ISSN 2341-5568 (online publication), no 68, Publications (Finnish Youth Research Society) ISSN 1799-9219, no 233. Online publications (Finnish Youth Research Society) ISSN 1799-9227, no 161. Cl 32.4, 79.8. Series: Field. Unbound, 208 p., 28 eur.

The publication is available only in Finnish.


After publication, the book is available for purchase in Helsinki at Tiedekirja, Snellmaninkatu 13 and Rosebud Books in City Center, Kaivokatu 8. The book is available by order for other bookshops at

The study of leisure activities will become available for downloading free of charge as an online publication on the State Youth Council website.

Orders for review copies and orders for bookshops:

Study of children and young people’s leisure activities

The studies of children and young people’s leisure activities study the free time of 7–29-year-olds, with a focus on media, leisure activities, sports and exercise. The studies continue the previous series of publications of Study of Young People’s Leisure Activities, first published in 2009. The name of the series was changed to Study of children and young people’s leisure activities in 2016 due to lowering of the age limit. The series of studies is published by the Finnish Youth Research Network and the State Youth Council. Changing partners are involved in the study in some years.

About leisure activities – Study of children and young people’s leisure activities 2020 (ed. Mikko Salasuo) is a more extensive and varied entity than the previous studies. The material consists of 1,402 telephone interviews, conducted early in 2020, asking children and young people in the age group 7–29 questions about their leisure activities and free time. At the same time, the parents of younger respondents were asked about their children’s free time and leisure activities. The statistical section of the publication studies i.a. young people’s art, culture and media activities, contacts with friends and parents, mediatisation of free time, young people’s internet use and bullying and discrimination in leisure activities. The topics are studied in depth in four articles discussing the post-war social debate on young people’s leisure activities, children as fans of music, the change in music sector economy due to digitalisation, and ideals of playing for fun.

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The Study of children and young people’s leisure activities 2020 is published by the Finnish Youth Research Network and the State Youth Council.

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