In Autumn 2015, Hubbub launched The Rest Test in collaboration with BBC Radio 4. The Rest Test was the world’s largest survey into subjective experiences of rest, investigating how different people understand and seek to rest and whether rest can be linked to wellbeing. A year on, and with the input of more than 18,000 people from 134 countries, Hubbub can share a slice of the information gathered through The Rest Test.


68% of the individuals who participated in the survey would like more rest. A third outlined that they feel they need more rest than the average person, and 10% believe they need less rest than the average person.

A question asking how much rest a participant had taken over the previous day resulted in an average of three hours and six minutes (participants were able to define rest according to their own preferences).

We found that participants who had experienced less rest than most the previous day, or who believed they need more rest than the average individual, scored lower overall on a wellbeing scale. In a marked difference, people who felt they had sufficient rest scored twice as high on wellbeing scales than those who felt themselves in need of more rest. This result is of particular interest as it supports the idea that an individual’s subjective perception of rest experienced (whether they feel rested enough) is as important as obtaining a specific amount of rest (perhaps an amount allocated as appropriate by an external party, e.g. a clinician).

Participants with the highest wellbeing scores had rested on average for between five and six hours the previous day. Those who’d rested for longer began to experience a slight dip in their wellbeing score. These findings have piqued our interest, as having the potentiality for exploring an optimum amount of rest for an individual.

The Rest Test: Top 10 Restful Activities (as voted for by survey participants)


  • #1 Reading

58% of people found this restful. The Rest Test included a scale to measure whether people felt they were flourishing, and participants who scored high on this scale were particularly likely to choose reading as a restful activity.


  • #2 Being in the natural environment

Women were slightly more likely to select this activity than men, and it scored lower in the rankings in Northern Ireland than in other regions across the UK.


  • #3 Being on your own

This was most frequently chosen by women and individuals under the age of 30. The analysis team was struck by the observation that a significant number of the top ten restful activities chosen by participants are often carried out alone. It’s interesting to note that social activities including seeing friends and family, or drinking socially, placed lower in the rankings. It’s also not just introverts who rate being alone as a restful activity. Extraverts also value time spent alone, and voted this pastime as more restful than being in the company of other people.


  • #4 Listening to music

This was more popular among younger people than older people, and was selected by more men than women participating in the survey.


  • #5 Doing nothing in particular

This was a popular choice for every age bracket participating in the survey, with the exception of 31-45 year olds. Doing nothing in particular is not a source of rest for everyone however, and some 9% of participants observed that taking rest can lead to them feeling guilty or stressed.


  • #6 Walking

This is an example of how physical activity features on the list of restful activities. Alongside walking, running was selected by 8% of survey participants as a source of rest, and exercise was found to be restful by 16% of people overall.


  • #7 Having a bath or showering

This was much more popular among younger participants in the survey, with nearly twice as many 18-30 year olds selecting this option than those aged over 60.


  • #8 Daydreaming

Daydreaming, or mind-wandering, features heavily in Hubbub’s research into rest, and its appearance in the top 10 list of restful activities gives us lots to think about.


  • #9 Watching TV

This was popular amongst more younger people than older people, and was chosen by more women than men particpating in the survey. It’s interesting to note that watching TV was less popular than reading in every age group taking part in the survey.


  • #10 Meditating or practising mindfulness

The appearance of meditation and mindfulness on the list is noteworthy given the increase in wider popularity of these practices in recent years.


A chapter on The Rest Test features in The Restless Compendium, a new book featuring the work of Hubbub collaborators in exploring the dynamics of rest. Works related to The Rest Test also feature in Rest & its discontents, an exhibition at Mile End Art Pavilion in London throughout October.

Ongoing, Hubbub will release the results via a peer-reviewed publication in 2017, with the intention of further interrogating the data captured by The Rest Test in future research into rest, sound and noise, working rhythms, mental health and well-being, and urban environments.


The Rest Test sought to explore people’s subjective experiences of rest and was developed during Hubbub’s 22-month residency in The Hub at Wellcome Collection. The survey was designed by Hubbub’s interdisciplinary collective of researchers, led by Durham University, including scientists, social scientists, mental health experts, humanities researchers and artists, who brought together different insights and questions about people’s experiences of rest in the modern world.

The survey was split into two parts. The first part was designed to collect socio-demographic data and perceptions of rest. This included information on country of residence, gender, income, caring responsibility, benefits received, disability and exercise levels, as well as patterns of working, including shift work, worklessness and commuting. The second part included a number of well-validated psychological scales often used in research. These included The Flourishing Scale, Satisfaction with Life Scale and The Scale of Positive and Negative Experience, which were used to understand the wellbeing of survey participants at the time of taking The Rest Test.

A sample of the survey is available on our website.


A live results show was recorded at a Wellcome Collection event in September 2016, presented by Claudia Hammond (Hubbub Associate Director and member of the survey development team), who was joined by survey co-creators Felicity Callard (Hubbub Director and social scientist) and Ben Alderson-Day (psychologist and Hubbub collaborator) to discuss the survey’s findings.

Claudia, Felicity and Ben were joined by commentators on the survey’s findings, including:

  • Jules Evans, philosopher
  • Robin Ince, comedian and writer
  • Kathleen Jamie, poet and essayist
  • Claire Martin, jazz singer
  • Lemn Sissay, author and Patron of the Reading Organisation

The event also featured the work of mental health and inequalities researcher, Lynne Friedli, and poet and researcher, Holly Pester, both Hubbub collaborators.

Listen to the results show, Finding rest in the modern world: Rest Test Results, the final episode in the 3-part BBC Radio 4 series The Anatomy of Rest, as it airs on BBC Radio 4 at 09.00 and again at 21.30 on Tuesday 27 September.


The Rest Test was developed, test-run and analysed by many Hubbub collaborators and contributors, including Ben Alderson-Day, Josh Berson, Felicity Callard, Charles Fernyhough, Des Fitzgerald, Johannes Golchert, Louise Gregor, Rhett Griffiths, Claudia Hammond, Mark Lauckner, Gemma Lewis, Daniel Margulies, Harriet Martin, Holly Pester, Giulia Poerio, Hilary Powell, Jonny Smallwood, Kimberley Staines, James Wilkes, and Tal Yarkoni.

Hubbub thanks BBC Radio 4 and Wellcome Trust staff for their support throughout this collaboration, with a special thanks to Geraldine Fitzgerald for a brilliantly produced series, The Anatomy of Rest.


If you are interested in hearing more about The Rest Test, the survey results, and other Hubbub works, inlcuding the forthcoming exhibition, Rest & its discontents, our team can be contacted directly:

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