Understanding Boredom and Leisure in Later Life: A Systematic Review

Jaesung An, Laura L. Payne, Milae Lee, Megan C. Janke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background and Objectives: Anecdotal evidence and references to boredom appear frequently in mass media, but only a few studies directly examine the phenomenon of boredom, and existing literature within the context of leisure has primarily focused on adolescents. Social isolation and loneliness often intertwine with boredom, and chronic conditions are major factors that increase the risk of experiencing boredom in later life. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine the significance of boredom among older adults and assess the existing literature to gain a more holistic understanding of boredom and how it has been studied among older adults in the context of leisure. Research Design and Methods: Following the PRISMA guidelines, this study gathered literature from 5 electronic databases through December 2022. This systematic review investigated both qualitative and quantitative evidence, and standardized data extraction and study quality assessments were conducted. Results: A comprehensive search initially revealed 2,757 potentially relevant articles, 8 of which met the full inclusion criteria. Three studies investigated the phenomenon of leisure-boredom, and 5 studies assessed the experience of boredom in general and its relationship with leisure engagement. A majority of the studies, especially ones that examined older adults’ experience of overall boredom experience, lacked a thorough description of the phenomenon and did not use reliable and/or valid measurements. Discussion and Implications: Findings from 8 articles offer insights into boredom; however, the discussion examines the limitations of these studies and reasons why studying boredom is important. We also speculate as to why little research has addressed leisure boredom among older adults and propose a research agenda for increasing our understanding of the ways older adults experience boredom, the effects boredom has on health and well-being, and how boredom can be alleviated and/or managed in the context of leisure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2023


  • Boredom
  • Healthy aging
  • Leisure
  • Older adults
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


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