Multi-level leisure mechanisms framework

A theoretical framework of mechanisms of action by which leisure activities could affect health

Leisure activities (voluntary, enjoyable non-work activities, such as hobbies, arts, volunteering, community group membership, sports, and socialising) are known to be good for our health, but to date less has been known about how and why these activities are beneficial.

In this project we sought to create a unifying framework explaining how leisure activities affect health, by linking the psychological, biological, social, and behavioural processes – 600 ‘mechanisms of action’ – that operate at individual (micro), group (meso), and societal (macro) levels when we engage in leisure activities.

Key findings

  • We have synthesised these into a new theoretical framework: the Multi-level Leisure Mechanisms Framework.
  • This is the most rigorous review of potential mechanisms of action for leisure engagement so far, situating understanding of leisure activities within the theoretical lens of complex adaptive systems.
  • The new framework should support the design of more theory-driven, cross-disciplinary studies.

Figure: The Multi-level Leisure Mechanisms Framework

Programme area

Complexity science



Research Team

Dr Daisy Fancourt
Henry Aughterson
Saoirse Finn
Emma Walker
Professor Andrew Steptoe