In the age of binge-watching TV and social-media scrolling, you may not be forgiven for saying you can’t find the time to pick up a hobby. And there’s no time like the present. Experts agree that hobbies can make us more creative, happy, and empathetic; and if your hobby involves expressing yourself through art, it may even help to lessen anxiety, depression, dementia, and a host of other health conditions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that a new study found that 75 percent of Americans surveyed have creative hobbies, and they’re not about to give them up.
The study was conducted by Bluprint, NBCUniversal’s subscription service for online creative learning, to examine creativity trends in American society today. The company, which offers videos and classes on topics from watercolor painting to woodworking and cake decorating, also sought to learn about Americans’ creative hobbies and how much they value such activities.
Bluprint CEO John Levisay noted that he was keen to explore the ties between creative pursuits and health. “When you talk to a quilter or a cook or a knitter, they all talk about this kind of flow state that they get in when they’re making,” he explained. “It’s similar to meditation or yoga, where your blood pressure comes down, and you forget about a lot of the mayhem in the world, or personal stress.”
However, there’s a psychological misconception among American consumers, Levisay continued, who believe they don’t have time to be creative. “But then when people take inventory of where they’re spending their time, they realize that they’re spending three to four hours watching TV and an hour or two a day online,” he continued. And they acknowledge that creative activities make them feel better than watching TV or browsing social media. “We’ve heard it from our customers for years, and we wanted to do some more empirical research,” Levisay added.
Working with global consulting firm IPSOS, Bluprint developed a survey that was circulated in February 2019. It asked participants to identify their creative hobbies, rate the importance of creativity in their lives and that of their children, and consider the sacrifices they would make to keep those hobbies. Creative hobbies could be anything from drawing and painting to knitting, baking, making music, beer brewing, or journaling. In total, a random selection of 2,012 American adults over age 18 took the survey.
What it found
Americans have creative hobbies, but they’re hungry for more creative stimulation.
75 percent of participants reported having at least one creative hobby.
The most popular activities were baking, gardening, cooking (beyond everyday meals), home decor, and DIY crafting.
68 percent said that they are eager to use their creativity more often.
Participants with creative hobbies reported that making things by hand brings them joy.
79 percent said they “love the process of creating something from scratch.”
88 percent agreed with the statement: “Successfully finishing a creative project brings me joy.”
75 percent reported that they “make mistakes along the way,” but that doesn’t lessen their “enjoyment.”
Some would sacrifice streaming TV and movies for their creative hobbies.
Of those who have Netflix, 77 percent would rather give up their subscription than give up their creative hobby.
Parents want their children to have ample opportunities for creativity.
77 percent agreed with the statement “I want my child(ren) to be more creative than I got the opportunity to be when I was a child.”
61 percent agreed that “public education doesn’t focus enough on creative arts.”
72 percent agreed that “standardized test scores are prioritized more than creative thinking in schools.”
79 percent of parents would prefer that their children “make just enough to get by in a creative job that they love,” rather than “make lots of money in a job they aren’t passionate about.”
What it means
The study suggests that not only are Americans aware of the value and benefits of creativity, they want more of it.
Maggie King, director of consumer insights at Bluprint, noted that the findings support a lot of the medical research that we’re seeing on the emotional benefits of creative activities. “Our data is showing that people who participate in creative hobbies versus those who do not are more likely to describe themselves as happy, joyful, [and] passionate,” she said, suggesting that creativity is positively affecting “their outlook on life.”
American adults want more creativity for themselves and their children, but they don’t necessarily know how to make that a reality. “They’re recognizing that even their schooling isn’t supporting creativity in the way that they want, and they want their kids to be even more creative,” King said. “So I think we recognize that we want it prioritized, but we’re still kind of struggling against all the other pressures to bring it into the fold more.”
Levisay believes that there are two factors driving the current relevance of creativity. He explained that there’s more recognition of the nature of creativity and its benefits. In the past, it was commonly believed that creativity is genetic—that some people are born with it. Today, we’re more open to the idea that creativity can be honed through education and practice. We can all be creative—it’s a matter of letting it out.
The second factor, Levisay continued, is the world we live in. “Always-on technology and the 24-hour news cycle [are] creating disorientation,” he explained. People may be reactively turning to focused creative activities to decompress or find respite.
King also emphasized the current moment. “We’re in a very divisive time in society right now, where we’re kind of disagreeing on more than we’re agreeing on, and we’re also prioritizing a lot of business,” she said. “We’re always on with all of our devices, and so we’re seeing that prioritized as a society.” Even though three in four Americans have creative hobbies, she continued, “more than two-thirds want to use it even more and want to find more opportunities for that.” For this reason, they’re framing the study as evidence of a “creativity crisis.”
The study also supports the theory that the ubiquity of screens is driving us to DIY culture and making things by hand. “There’s something inherently agitating, even subconsciously, when you’re pinging around through social media as opposed to kind of having a singular focus and the relaxation benefits that come with slowing down, learning about something, and then making with your hands,” Levisay offered. “There’s a real sense of satisfaction and well-being that comes from that.”