Choosing to Be With Others Is More Consequential to Well-Being Than Choosing to Be Alone

Summary: The element of choice in whether we choose to be alone or interact with others plays a key role in personal wellbeing.

Source: Bar-Ilan University

Do we enjoy our time more when we are alone, or when we’re in the company of others? A new study by researchers from Bar-Ilan University in Israel has found that the element of choice in our daily social interactions plays a key role in our well-being.

Stable social relationships are conducive to well-being. But the effects of daily social interactions (or of time spent alone) on momentary feeling of happiness is not well understood. The current study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, suggests that our sense of choice of being with others (or of being alone) is a central factor which shapes our feelings in these contexts.

Importantly, it was suggested that choice matters more ‘with others’ than alone, because experiences with others are more intense.

The research, led by Dr. Liad Uziel, of the Department of Psychology of Bar-Ilan University, with Dr. Tomer Schmidt-Barad, a postdoc in his lab now at the Peres Academic Center, consisted of two studies: an experiment that manipulated social context and choice status, and a ten-day experience-sampling study, which explored these variables in real-life settings.

The experience-sampling study involved 155 students. Each participant reported three times a day for ten consecutive days on episodic social experiences.

Participants were asked in each “sample” to report on their social status (alone/with other people), whether they were in this situation by choice or not by choice, and their feelings (positive or negative emotion, satisfaction, sense of meaning, and sense of control). In total, more than 4,200 episodic reports were received.

Of these, people were with others 60% of the time and alone 40% of the time. They were in these situations by their choice in 64% of the situations, and not by their choice in 36%. This indicates that the students spent about a third of their daytime in non-chosen social (or alone) situations. 

Participants felt greater satisfaction (happiness) in the company of others than in being alone. However, there were great variations in the experience of being with others. The greatest degree of happiness was felt when in the company of others by choice, but the lowest degree of happiness when in the company of others not by choice. Effects of being alone on happiness also varied by choice status, but to a lesser extent.

This shows a man standing alone, looking out onto a stream at night time
Importantly, it was suggested that choice matters more ‘with others’ than alone, because experiences with others are more intense. Image is in the public domain

In a previous study Dr. Uziel found that social situations intensify emotions, while being alone was linked to calmer emotions and to a more relaxed overall experience.

“The current research expands upon these conclusions by learning about people’s experiences in real life, outside the lab, and by addressing the choice element as an important moderating factor,” explains Dr. Uziel. “In both cases, social experiences are more intense, for better or worse.”

Dr. Uziel says that choice, or even a subjective sense of choice, is a crucial factor in influencing the sense of well-being. People will feel better if they are alone by choice than if they are with others not by choice. Yet being in the company of others by choice contributes most to improving sense of well-being at any given moment.

About this psychology research news

Author: Press Office
Source: Bar-Ilan University
Contact: Press Office – Bar-Ilan University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
Choice Matters More with Others: Choosing to be with Other People is More Consequential to Well-Being than Choosing to be Alone” by Liad Uziel et al. Journal of Happiness Studies


Choice Matters More with Others: Choosing to be with Other People is More Consequential to Well-Being than Choosing to be Alone

Stable social relationships are conducive to well-being. However, similar effects are not reported consistently for daily social interactions in affecting episodic (experiential) subjective well-being (ESWB). The present investigation suggests that the choice of being in a social context plays an important moderating role, such that social interactions increase ESWB only if taken place by one’s choice. Moreover, it is argued that choice matters more in a social context than in an alone context because experiences with others are amplified.

These ideas were tested and supported in two studies: An experiment that manipulated social context and choice status, and a 10-day experience-sampling study, which explored these variables in real-life settings. Results showed that being with others by one’s choice had the strongest positive association with ESWB, sense of meaning, and control, whereas being with others not by one’s choice—the strongest negative association with ESWB. Effects of being alone on ESWB also varied by choice status, but to a lesser extent.

The findings offer theoretical and practical insights into the effects of the social environment on well-being.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.
  1. Isn’t this kind of obvious? Who likes being in a social situation that they don’t want to be in – how do YOU feel and think when you’re in them? How much energy does it take to try and be positive during the experience?

    Whereas being alone whether by choice or not CAN be a comforting outcome. Being forced to go out – that’s room for worry, subconscious or not.

  2. I love being alone most of the time because it gives me ample time to look within and to God. But can time spent alone on social media really be time spent alone?

  3. It is all about choice.
    I have been divorced 27 years and single by choice 23. Once I made the choice to be single my life changed. As a senior looking back over my life I see the adventures I had on my own were the ones I enjoyed the most.

  4. Being alone depends on the person and their beliefs. I love to live in peace and quiet. I am not one for the drama unless it’s on TV. I don’t need to interact with others to enjoy my life. The survey is not consistent with everyone around the world or in the US. I am an older adult peace can be fun as well. God Bless

    1. I hear you sista. ✋
      I learned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from this pointless study.
      A Total waste of time unless you never learned anything in life.
      Maybe this Doc is like a Child.
      Completely Ignorant of what’s really going on. ?

      Nothin to learn here.

  5. I was married and had a great time 22 years have been divorced since 2005. Since then I thought all that time my family abandoned me. I found out recently that I had neglected to keep in touch. I was the one that had abandoned them.. been sober and clean for 5 years Nov 15 2016. Wow my fault

    1. Being alone is so much more positive for me bc I crave solitude and I’d rather not be around others of more than 4. One person at a time is ideal to me. I hate parties and suffering through smalltalk!

    2. We’re social primates. That means we have to form groups to evolve which means we’re actually group members before we’re individuals.
      Glad the scientists figured that out.
      Solitary confinement is torturous, And it feels better to give than receive which is group affirming.

  6. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, then all things can be given to you according to His will.” This is the choice that leads to a happy life. Being alone isn’t an option. However, it is an interesting survey.

    1. Sometimes one has to be alone (an option) to figure out what to do: Moses was called into the mountains to be alone with sheep before he was fit to serve YAH; Jonah was in the whale alone; Joseph was in the hole alone; Daniel and his three friends were in the furnace alone; One crying in the wilderness [alone] John Baptist was also alone in a cell for days before his beheading; Messiah was alone on the Cross, abandoned by YAH to fulfill His Will BUT NONE WERE LEFT WITHOUT invisible HOLY SPIRIT (Quodesh Ruach) and two of these examples did not return to their human companions before their human death. YES WE CAN BE ALONE AND ACCOMPLISH YAH’s will. Some greatly err to insist that so-called “scientists” got it right.

Comments are closed.