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People spend over a quarter of their time distracted

Press release   •   Nov 04, 2015 00:01 GMT

New study reveals daily distractions are linked to a lower level of happiness

The daily distractions of modern life, particularly those from personal technology devices, have been found to be associated with a lower level of happiness by a new scientific study revealed today. The findings also show that irrelevant distractions taint recollections of shared time with family or friends, leading to less happy memories.

The study, commissioned by leading family short breaks provider Center Parcs and conducted by Professor Nilli Lavie of University College London, saw more than 450 volunteers tested using Professor Lavie’s ‘Distractions Diagnostics Tool’ to establish the level of distraction people experience when trying to engage in typical daily life activities and when interacting with each other.

The distraction assessment tool recorded different dimensions of irrelevant distractions such as the level of intrusion of technology devices, vehicles and advertising in different daily environments such as shopping on the high street, spending time at the park, or socialising in a bar or a café. The level of distraction was then correlated against people’s reports on their level of happiness at the time of testing.

Findings reveal that on average people spend more than a quarter (28%) of their time distracted. We are prone to significant levels of distractions during all types of typical daily life activities including in social interactions with family, friends and colleagues. Mobile phone distractions constitute the largest source of attention diversions, on average accounting for 17% of time but rising to more than 50% for 15% of people. Those distracted by mobile phones are also most likely to report a significantly lower level of happiness.

When in a social context, the level of distractions is higher within close groups of family and friends compared to when with work colleagues. In addition, when memories of recent family gatherings are assessed, people who recall either themselves or others being distracted are also found to remember being less happy during the occasion than those who do not remember distractions.

These findings establish a lasting relationship between distractions and happiness: both current levels of happiness and the extent to which people remember being happy in the past are negatively linked with attention disruptions.

Nilli Lavie, Professor of Psychology and Brain Sciences at University College London and Director of BrainFocus Limited said: “Our BrainFocus study provides clear evidence for the popular claim that we live in the ‘age of distractions’. People reporting being distracted for more than a quarter of their time rather than focusing on what they are doing, even during precious time spent with family and friends, confirms this claim.

While we have little control over our environment (except for walking away, or taking a break) we do have control over how much attention we pay to personal gadgets such as our mobile phones - yet these were found not only to be the most distracting but also significantly linked with lower levels of happiness. The fact that the findings went on to reveal a negative link between the memory of distractions and happiness also suggests a robust and lasting association that may not be easy to break. Being aware of the significant link between our ability to pay undivided attention and our feeling of happiness, could help us improve both.”

Colin Whaley, Sales and Marketing Director, Center Parcs commented: “Modern day life sees us all bombarded by more distractions than ever before often making it hard to see the wood for the trees. This presents a challenge for mums and dads in particular who are typically already trying to juggle multiple roles and tasks in any one day. We hope that these findings will help highlight how important it is for both individuals and families to carve out time where attention is undivided and to enjoy spending quality time together.”


For more information on The Age of Distractions Study or for interviews with Professor Nilli Lavie please contact the Center Parcs team at The Red Consultancy:

About the Age of Distractions Study:

  1. Research for the Age of Distractions study was conducted by  Professor Nilli Lavie and Dr Jake Fairnie of BrainFocus Ltd during  September and October 2015
  2. The study was conducted in six UK cities  and towns selected to provide a representative samples of population size  and economic metric of income.
  3. The study was conducted across all days of  the week and across different environments capturing a representative  range of daily life activities

About Center Parcs:

  1. Center Parcs has five Villages across  the UK; Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Elveden Forest in Suffolk,  Longleat Forest in Wiltshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest  in Bedfordshire which opened to guests on 6 June 2014
  2. As the leader in the UK short break  holiday market, Center Parcs regularly achieves average annual occupancy  in excess of 97%
  3. Center Parcs offers weekend, (Friday to  Monday) or midweek (Monday to Friday) breaks and welcomes over 2  million guests each year, with 96% of guests expressing an intention to  return
  4. The Center Parcs concept is to provide  a range of high quality accommodation, shops, restaurants and exceptional  leisure facilities, carefully nestled amongst 400 acres of protected  forest environment
  5. This concept originated in Holland in  1967, with the first UK Center Parcs opening in 1987. Center Parcs is now  a separate entity in the UK
  6. Center Parcs has been awarded the  following accolades since 2008: the Green Business Award for Biodiversity  Protection, Visit Britain 5 Star Rating, Hospitality Assured, Biodiversity  Benchmark - Land Management, Carbon Trust Standard, Good Spa Guide Award,  ISO14001, Investors in People
  7. Center Parcs has recently been  announced ‘Best Family Holiday Provider’  in the Tommy’s Awards for the eleventh year in a row