Sadness is the longest lasting of the emotions, finds one of the first ever studies to look at why some emotions last much longer than others.
When compared with being irritated, ashamed, surprised and even bored; it’s sadness which outlasts the others.
The study, published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, found that sadness tended to be associated with events which had a major long-term impact on people’s lives, such as bereavement (Verduyn & Lavrijsen, 2014).
Saskia Lavrijsen, who co-authored the study, explained:
“Rumination is the central determinant of why some emotions last longer than others.
Emotions associated with high levels of rumination will last longest.
Emotions of shorter duration are typically — but, of course, not always — elicited by events of relatively low importance.
On the other hand, long-lasting emotions tend to be about something highly important.”
The results come from a survey of 233 students who were asked to recall emotional experiences and how long they had lasted.
Here is the amount of time that each emotion lasted, on average:
At the extremes, while disgust and shame tended to pass within 30 minutes, sadness continued on for an average of 120 hours.
Boredom, meanwhile, tended to pass in a couple of hours, although naturally it feels like longer!
There were also fascinating patterns amongst linked emotions.
For example, fear tended to be short-lived, while its close cousin anxiety lasted much longer.
Similarly, the hot burn of shame passed relatively quickly, but the feeling of guilt tended to hang around much longer.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Lucas