Nothing good happens when teenagers get bored – at least, that’s what a new study from researchers at University of Bologna in Italy suggests.
In the study, published in Psychological Reports, researchers looked at how teenagers’ proneness to boredom influenced how those teens used their free time, paying special attention to whether teens tended to engage in risk behaviors like binge drinking and excessive internet use.
Psychologists have long known that some people have a greater tendency to experience boredom than others, and that how prone to boredom people are can influence how susceptible they are to behaviors like internet addiction.
In this case, the researchers surveyed 478 adolescents and divided them into a “high-boredom” and a “low-boredom” group. Then they looked at how people in the more and less boredom-prone groups tended to spend their free time.
They found that teenagers in the more boredom-prone group engaged in a range of behaviors associated with risks to physical and mental health. For example, teenagers with higher boredom proneness engaged in binge drinking and consumed strong drinks more often. These teenagers also used technology more, and had higher rates of internet addiction.
On the other hand, the high-boredom teenagers had fewer hobbies, and they were less likely to engage in activities like sports. In other words, while they engaged in riskier activities more, they tended to participate in other kinds of activities more conducive to health less.
As the researchers point out, these findings make intuitive sense because riskier activities like binge drinking and heavy internet use could be “ways to cope with the search for additional stimuli.” More generally, the results outline what the researchers call a “hypothetical risk profile linked to boredom proneness in adolescence” and suggest that boredom and boredom proneness could play an important role in teen mental health.