Home / Science / Health /  When too much patience is not a virtue

Too much patience or an excessive tendency to delay gratification can hamper psychological well-being, a new study authored by Paola Giuliano of UCLA and Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University suggests.

The authors use data from the 2012 Gallup World Poll and the Global Preference Survey to argue that there is a moderate amount of patience which maximizes life satisfaction and emotional well-being. Beyond that, higher levels of patience have a negative impact on well-being.

Well-being, here, is estimated using different indices, such as the Life Evaluation index, from the Gallup World Poll. The Life Evaluation index is calculated based on how participants rate their current life and future life. Based on these ratings, respondents are classified as those who are “suffering", “struggling" or “thriving". Other well-being measures include the positive experience index—a summary measure of their well-being the day before the interview and indicators based on participants’ revealed level of happiness. At the same time, patience is measured based on the data from the Global Preference Survey where respondents were asked to choose between an immediate financial reward and a larger delayed financial reward.

They find that the relationship between patience and well-being holds regardless of the measure used for well-being. Initially, patience is associated with greater well-being but beyond a certain point, the relationship reverses. A possible explanation for this ‘hump-shaped’ relationship between patience and well-being could be that delayed gratification can create a sense of dissatisfaction as people sacrifice the present for the future. Only very high levels of patience have this negative impact, say the authors. And so the social benefits from delaying gratification, in the form of higher savings and investments, can still, on average, exceed the costs of excessive patience.

Also Read: The cost of being too patient

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