LARNet; The Cyber Journal of Applied Leisure and Recreation Research

The Influence of Leisure Motivation on Leisure Satisfaction

 (July 2010)

Brent A. Beggs, Ph.D., Illinois State University

 Daniel J. Elkins, Ph.D., Illinois State University


Please direct correspondence to:
Brent A. Beggs

Assistant Professor

Illinois State University

School of Kinesiology and Recreation

Stevenson Hall 413H - Campus Box 5121

Normal, IL  61790

Phone: (309) 438-5753



Satisfying leisure experiences are important during the college years in establishing life-long leisure patterns.  These experiences can be better understood through knowing what motivates people to participate and how those motivations impact a satisfying experience.  The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between leisure motivation and leisure satisfaction of college students.  This study utilized the Leisure Motivation Scale and the Leisure Satisfaction Scale to examine the relationship between leisure motivation and leisure satisfaction.  Survey research was utilized to collect the data from a Midwestern campus using a purposeful sample of students enrolled in academic courses known to be representative of the student population (N=363).  The data were analyzed descriptively and the overall leisure satisfaction score was also computed for the purposes of measuring the extent to which perceived motives were associated with overall leisure satisfaction using multiple regression analysis.  Multiple regression was used to analyze the contribution of each motivation subscale to leisure satisfaction. Overall, students were highly motivated by competence/mastery factors.  Also students perceived high levels of satisfaction in the relaxation and psychological dimensions of satisfaction.  Further analysis indicated significant correlation between the four subscales of motivation and leisure satisfaction.  The predictors of leisure satisfaction, in order of strength of association, were: competence/mastery factors, intellectual factors, and stimulus/avoidance factors. 
Key Words:
leisure satisfaction, leisure motivation, college students


Life satisfaction is one of the oldest research issues in the social scientific study of aging and human development (Mannell and Dupuis, 1996).  Life satisfaction has been examined by studying satisfaction at different stages in life and by utilizing different methodologies.  As one would expect, there are many variables that contribute to life satisfaction.  One variable that has emerged as contributing to life satisfaction in research is leisure satisfaction (Wang, Chen, Lin, & Wang, 2008; Nimrod, 2006; London, Crandall, & Seals, 1977; Keller, 1983; Russell, 1987; Brown & Frankel, 1993).

Satisfying leisure experiences are important during all life stages. According to Wang, Chen, Lin, and Wang (2008), leisure satisfaction is a significant predictor of life satisfaction, though in the case of adolescent online gamers, the greater number of hours the subjects engaged in online gaming, the less satisfied they were with their lives.  Nimrod (2006) studied retired senior citizens, and found that those who concentrated and expanded their leisure repertoire perceived greater satisfaction with their lives.  Throughout life stages, individuals have positive and negative leisure experiences, which may affect leisure aspirations in both the long and short term.  How an individual responds to their leisure experiences as a youth will affect their ability to be satisfied in their leisure as the advance to a new life stage. 

Leisure satisfaction during the college years is of considerable importance as students develop leisure patterns and behaviors that have long-term ramifications for shaping leisure behaviors and attitudes later in life (Gordon & Catalbiano, 1996; Hultsman, 1993).  By having positive and satisfying leisure experiences, an individual is more likely to continue to participate in leisure activities after the college years.  In the examination of leisure behavior patterns over the life span, Searle, Mactavish, and Brayley (1993) determined that leisure satisfaction was one of the primary variables that contributed in explaining an individuals’ choice to continue participation in leisure activities.  In addition, satisfying participation in leisure during college has also proven to greatly enhance the college experience by positively impacting students physically, psychologically, and socially (Nesbit, 1993; Todaro, 1993; Wilson, 1994). 

Leisure satisfaction has been measured considering activity-specific characteristics and through a global approach of measuring general satisfaction with leisure choices.  Both methods have proven to be effective measures of satisfaction, however, due to the nature of activity-specific measures, instrument development is required for studying each activity (Kao, 1992; Beggs 2002).  A global approach allows for the use of a standardized instrument in understanding leisure satisfaction.  The most recognized and utilized instrument comprised of global factors was developed by Beard and Ragheb (1980).  They developed the Leisure Satisfaction Scale which is comprised of six factors or subscales that were identified using principal component analysis.  The factors are psychological, educational, social, relaxation, physiological, and aesthetic.  Beard and Ragheb explained the psychological component as the psychological benefits of the leisure activity such as enjoyment, sense of freedom, involvement, and challenge.  Intellectual stimulation and how individuals learned about themselves and their surroundings represented the educational factor.  Beard and Ragheb described the social dimension as rewarding relationships with other individuals and referred to the relaxation factor as the relief from strain and stress of everyday life.  The physiological component refers to physical fitness, weight control, and well-being.  How well individuals found the leisure environment to be pleasing, interesting, beautiful and well designed represented the aesthetic dimension.  The Leisure Satisfaction Scale has been has been the primary instrument of choice in measuring leisure satisfaction and has been used in many different types of studies examining leisure satisfaction.   Iso-Ahola, Allen, and Buttimer (1982) utilized the Leisure Satisfaction Scale to examine leisure satisfaction in high school and college age students.  Riddick (1986) also investigated age group differences in leisure satisfaction utilizing the Leisure Satisfaction Scale.  Ashby, Kottman, and DeGraaf (1999) utilized the Leisure Satisfaction Scale in measuring leisure satisfaction and attitudes of perfectionists.  Ragheb and Tate (1993) utilized the Leisure Satisfaction Scale in studying a behavioral model of leisure participation based on leisure attitude, motivation and satisfaction.  Kaufman (1984) also utilized the Leisure Satisfaction Scale in examining the relationship between leisure satisfaction, participation, and patterns of leisure activity with anxiety levels in retirees.  Russell (1984) utilized the Leisure Satisfaction Scale in studying satisfaction in retirement.  Kibler and Smith (2000) utilized two of the LSS subscales to measure leisure satisfaction of adult males with HIV and AIDS and its relationship to social needs and stress relief needs. 

Leisure satisfaction is an important concept to understand, but in order to fully appreciate its meanings, it is necessary to examine underlying constructs of satisfying leisure experiences.  It has been suggested that one’s ability to have a satisfying leisure experience may be related to an individual’s motivation to participate in a leisure activity (Beggs, Elkins, & Powers, 2005).  Motivation in leisure has been studied similarly to leisure satisfaction by looking at both activity-specific and global motivational characteristics.  The global approach to understanding motivation for leisure participation was originally proposed by Beard and Ragheb (1983).   A global approach examining what generally motivates an individual to participate has proven to be very effective and a common method of understanding leisure motivation.  They developed the leisure motivation scale that is comprised of four sub-scales: intellectual, social, competence-mastery, and stimulus-avoidance.  The intellectual dimension of leisure motivation refers to mental stimulation such as cognitive learning or the opportunity to use one’s imagination.  The social component refers to the need for interpersonal relationships.  The competency/mastery factor explains motivation in terms of the desire for competition and challenge.  The stimulus avoidance dimension refers to escape and restoration one seeks in their leisure activities. 

The Leisure Motivation Scale has been utilized in a variety of settings to understand leisure motivation.  Kanters and Forrester (1997) and Beggs Elkins and Stitt (2004) utilized the Leisure Motivation Scale to examine leisure motivation in campus recreational sports.  Lounsbury and Polik (1992) utilized the Leisure Motivation Scale to study leisure needs and satisfaction of vacationers.  Ryan and Glendon (1998) used the Leisure Motivation Scale to examine decision of tourists in destination choices.  The Leisure Motivation Scale was utilized by Starzyk, Reddon, and Friel (2000) to study leisure motivation and psychosocial adjustment among high school students.  Wickham, Hanson, Shechtman, and Ashton (2000) used the Leisure Motivation Scale to examine leisure attitudes and leisure motivation of adults with spinal cord injury.

Much of the aforementioned research examined differences in leisure motivation based on demographic variables and motivation in relation to participation; this research has contributed to a better understanding of the leisure motivation through participation. However, very little research has examined the satisfaction of these experiences. Hseih (1998) examined multiple leisure constructs and found that there was a positive relationship between leisure motivation and leisure participation as well as a strong relationship between leisure participation and leisure satisfaction in college students in Taiwan.  However, results from Hseih’s study were limited by sampling and issues related to multicollinearity whereas direct correlations between motivation and satisfaction were unable to be determined.  In a study of tourist behavior, Lee (2009) proposed that the level of motivation to engage in tourist behavior was directly related to satisfaction in the activities, as well as the likelihood of future participation.

Leisure service providers have used the motivation and satisfaction constructs to plan programs and services which fulfill population needs, and do so in a manner which provides satisfaction of these needs (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997).  A further understanding of the motivational influences to engage in a given behavior, along with an understanding of how these motives are associated with leisure satisfaction may continue to assist leisure program providers to a greater extent. This study sought to further contribute to this understanding of the leisure motivation and satisfaction constructs through an investigation of the relationship of the motivation to participate in campus recreational sports programs.  Moreover, this study sought an understanding of how the degree to which the student is motivated as well as the factor by which they are motivated explained overall leisure satisfaction.


            This study utilized the Leisure Motivation Scale (Beard & Ragheb, 1983) and the Leisure Satisfaction Scale (Beard & Ragheb, 1980) to examine what motivates college students to participate in leisure activities and how motivation influenced overall leisure satisfaction.  Survey research was utilized to collect the data from a Midwestern campus using a purposeful sample of undergraduate students enrolled in academic courses known to be representative of the student population in terms of gender, class standing, and level of participation in campus recreational sports programs. In order to best represent the student population, a total of 20 classes with the widest variety of academic majors were targeted to be part of the sample. Upon receiving permission from the instructor of these courses, 18 classes agreed to participate in the study.   A traditional survey was administered during 18 class sessions to a total of 412 students. 

            The instrument used in this study was comprised of three components. The first section included demographic information, frequency of participation in campus recreational sports programs, and preferences in program format and variety.  The second section of the instrument included Likert scale items (1=never, 5=very often) relative to the use of 32 leisure motivation items subsumed in four categories: intellectual, social, competence/mastery, and stimulus avoidance.  The final section was comprised of the Leisure Satisfaction Scale (Beard & Ragheb, 1980) which included 24 Likert scale items (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree) aimed at an understanding of how satisfied students were in their leisure.

A total of 363 surveys were collected over a two-week period from undergraduate students enrolled in the 18 courses for which permission was granted to administer the survey.  Though there were a total of 412 students enrolled in these courses, 23 were not in attendance on the day the survey was administered, and an additional 26 declined to participate, resulting in a response rate of 88%.  The data were analyzed for all sections of the instrument, including measures of central tendency and variability for demographic information, leisure motivation items, and leisure satisfaction items.  Additionally, an overall leisure satisfaction score was computed using responses to each of the leisure satisfaction items for the purposes of measuring the extent to which motives to participate in campus recreation were associated with overall leisure satisfaction.  A correlation matrix of independent variables (motivation categories) was examined to determine if multicollinearity, or high correlation between predictor variables was present prior to subsequent analyses.  According to Tabachnick and Fidell (2001), any predictor variables highly correlated with one another (.70 or higher) can affect the predictive strength of the regression equation.  Upon screening for multicollinearity, standard multiple regression analysis was performed between the overall leisure satisfaction score as the dependent variable and the average response score to the each of the four motivation factors as independent variables.  The standardized regression coefficients (β) were computed for the purposes of measuring whether the motivational factors contributed significantly to the prediction of overall leisure satisfaction, along with the extent to which the factors explain leisure satisfaction.  Analysis was performed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) 14.0.


            Three hundred and sixty three undergraduate students (n=363) participated in the study. There was accurate representation in terms of gender (Male=51.2%, Female=48.8%), class standing (Freshman=29.8%, Sophomore=19.3%, Junior=20.9%, Senior=30.0%) and residence (on-campus=42.1%, off-campus=57.9%).  Additionally, students were asked to indicate their frequency of participation in campus recreational sports programs.  Of the 363 students who responded, 13.5% had never participated in campus recreational sports program, 24.5% participated 1-2 per month, 24.5% participated 1-2 times per week, 25.6% participated 3-4 times per week, and 11.8% indicated that they participated more than 4 times per week. 

Leisure Motivation and Satisfaction

Cronbach’s alpha coefficients indicated a strong measure of reliability for both the motivation (0.93) and satisfaction measures (0.93), as well as each of the motivation subscales (0.91 for intellectual factor, 0.87 for social factor, 0.91 for the competence/mastery factor, 0.84 for the stimulus avoidance factor).  Overall, students were highly motivated by the desire “to be active” (M=4.45, SD=0.66), “to keep in shape” (M=4.41, SD=0.77), “develop skills and abilities” (M=4.35, SD=0.73), to develop physical fitness” (M=4.28, SD=0.80), and “to use my physical ability” (M=4.27, SD=0.76).  With the exception of being motivated by the need to relieve stress (M=4.15, SD=0.79) and to interact with others (M=4.07, SD=0.81), the highest motives for participation in campus recreation were all competence/mastery motivational factors.  See Table 1 for a breakdown of results of motivation items.

Table 1

Descriptive Results Leisure Motivation

Mean Scores for Leisure Motivation Items

Motivation Items                                                                                                     Mean            SD

Intellectual Factors



to learn about things around me



to satisfy my curiosity



to explore new ideas



to learn about myself



to expand my knowledge



to discover new things



to be creative



to use my imagination



Social Factors



to build friendships with others



to interact with others



to develop close friendships



to meet new and different people



to reveal my thoughts, feelings, or physical skills to others



to be socially competent and skillful



to gain a feeling of belonging



to gain other’s respect



Competence/Mastery Factors



to challenge my abilities



to be good in doing them



to improve my skill and ability in doing  them



to be active



to develop physical skills and abilities



to keep in shape physically



to use my physical abilities



to develop physical fitness



Stimulus/Avoidance Factors



to slow down



because I sometimes like to be alone



to relax physically



to relax mentally



to avoid the hustle and bustle of daily activities



to rest



to relieve stress and tension



to unstructure my time



Note.  1-Strongly Disagree, 5-Strongly Agree


            Overall, student respondents were satisfied in their leisure (M=3.91, SD=0.56).  The specific leisure satisfaction items that students rated highest were, “I engage in leisure activities simply because I like doing them” (M=4.55, SD=0.78), and “my leisure activities help me to reduce stress” (M=4.19, SD=0.80).  Additionally, students were satisfied in their leisure as a result of leisure activities providing a sense of accomplishment (M=4.18, SD=0.79), and participating in activities that were interesting (M=4.17, SD=0.76).   See Table 2 for a breakdown of results of satisfaction items.

Table 2

Descriptive Results Leisure Satisfaction

Overall Mean Score for Leisure Satisfaction

Satisfaction Items                                                                                                    Mean            SD

My leisure activities are very interesting to me



My leisure activities give me self confidence



My leisure activities give me a sense of accomplishment



I use many different skills and abilities in my leisure activities



My leisure activities increase my knowledge about things around me



My leisure activities provide opportunities to try new things



My leisure activities help me to learn about myself



My leisure activities help me to learn about other people



I have social interaction with others through leisure activities



My leisure activities have helped me to develop close relationships



The people I meet in my leisure activities are friendly



I associate with people in my free time who enjoy doing leisure activities



My leisure activities help me to relax



My leisure activities help relieve stress



My leisure activities contribute to me emotional well being



I engage in leisure activities simply because I like doing them



My leisure activities are physically challenging



I do leisure activities which develop my physical fitness



I participate in my leisure to restore me physically



My leisure activities help me to stay healthy



The areas or places where I engage in my leisure activities are fresh and clean



The areas or places where I engage in my leisure activities are interesting



The areas or places where I engage in my leisure activities are beautiful



The areas or places where I engage in my leisure activities are well designed



Note. 1-Strongly Disagree, 5-Strongly Agree


            An examination of each dimension of leisure motivation was conducted in order to determine how, collectively, the dimensions of leisure motivation contribute to overall leisure satisfaction.  Overall, students were highly motivated by the competence/mastery factor (M=4.27, SD=0.67), followed by the social factor (M=3.68, SD=0.68), and intellectual factor (M=3.40, SD=0.75).  Students were least motivated by items subsumed in the stimulus avoidance factor (M=3.30, SD=0.71). 

            Prior to examination of the contribution of motivational factors to overall leisure satisfaction, a correlation matrix was examined for multicollinearity. Though all of the intercorrelations among independent variables were statistically significant, none of the correlations were over 0.70, thus were not considered to be inflating the explained variation in overall satisfaction (Table 3). 

Table 3

Correlation Coefficients of Motivation Subscales and Overall Leisure Satisfaction                        

Motivation Subscales






Students (n = 363)


1.  Intellectual Factors







2.  Social Factors







3.  Compentency/Mastery Factors







4.  Stimulus Avoidance Factors







Note: *p < .001 ,  **p < .01, *







Upon finding statistically significant relationships among the four subscales of motivation and overall leisure satisfaction while assuring the absence of multicollinearity among the motivation items, multiple correlation analyses was used to analyze the contribution of each motivation subscale (competence/mastery, social, intellectual, stimulus avoidance) to overall leisure satisfaction.  An overall regression equation model (Table 4) was significant at the .05 level (F= 45.649, p<.001). 

Table 4

Overall Regression Model Summary for Predicting Leisure Satisfaction                                                                                                           







Constant                                                                            4.418     .194                       7.314     .000

Intellectual Factors                                                               .194     .040       .257         4.838     .000
Social Factors                                                                      .081     .045       .097         1.791     .074
Competence/Mastery Factors                                              .298     .044       .323          6.772    .000
Stimulus/Avoidance Factors                                                 .081     .039       .103          2.094    .037

Note: R2  = .338, Adjusted R2  = .331, F = 45.649,
p < .001







As a result of the social factor not contributing significantly to the overall model (β=.097, t=1.791, p=.074), a revised model (Table 5) was developed (F= 59.43, p<.001).

Table 5

Revised Regression Model Summary for Predicting Leisure Satisfaction                                                                                                                                   







Constant                                                                           1.479     .191                       7.726     .000

Intellectual Factors                                                              .221     .037          .293      5.910     .000

Competence/Mastery Factors                                             .322     .042          .348      7.646     .000
Stimulus/Avoidance Factors                                                .094     .038          .120      2.473     .014

Note: R2  = .332, Adjusted R2  = .327, F = 59.40,
 p < .001







The R2 value for the final model was 0.332, indicating that the perceived motives to participate in campus recreation activities explained 33.2% of the variance in overall leisure satisfaction.  The predictors of leisure satisfaction in order of strength of association were competence/mastery factors (β=.348, t=7.646, p<.001), intellectual factors (β=.293, t=5.910, p<.001), and stimulus/avoidance factors (β=.120, t=2.473, p=.014). 


The results of this study support previous research by Beggs, Elkins, and Stitt (2004) who found that competency/mastery factors are the most important variables in leisure motivation of college students.  Kanters and Forrester (1997) also suggested that variables related to the competency/mastery factor are the most important in leisure participation of college students.  This finding also supports research by Campitelli (2000) that found students participated in campus recreational activities because of the opportunity to compete.  These findings suggest that college students are motivated to participate in leisure activities to achieve, master, challenge, and compete.  The results indicate that competency/mastery motivation variables contribute more than any other variables to satisfying leisure experiences during the college years.  This suggests that college students who seek activities where they can improve skills and compete are more likely to be satisfied with their experience.  A student seeking an activity where he/she can compete with others is more likely to be satisfied with the experience than a student who is motivated to participate by social, intellectual, or stimulus avoidance variables.  This may be attributable to seeking activities that are based on outcomes and the satisfaction of achieving desired outcomes. 

The social factor, in this study, was also a variable that college students indicated was an important leisure motivation variable.  Previous research is contradictory in regards to the importance of social factors in relation to motivation.  For example, Kanters and Forrester (1997) found that social variables were of importance to college students during leisure participation and played a significant role in motivation.  However, Beggs et al. (2004) found that social factors were not of importance to the leisure motivation of college students.  In this study, it was evident that social factors were important in leisure motivation but being socially motivated did not necessarily lead to a satisfying leisure experience.  This finding is important to consider as many college students choose to participate in activities for the social elements, however, the social motivator may not be what ultimately leads to a satisfying leisure experience.  For example, a student may be satisfied by leisure which presents an opportunity for competition and challenge, but may not pursue the type of leisure activity that would provide this type of experience if no one else in their social cohort shares this desire.

The intellectual motivation factor was less important in overall leisure motivation.  This finding supports previous research by Beggs et al. (2004) and suggests that college students were not highly motivated by opportunities for cognitive learning or chances to use their imagination.  However, the intellectual factor was included in the overall model of leisure satisfaction.  The intellectual factor has been shown to contribute to leisure satisfaction among travelers (Thomas & Butts, 1998) and leisure participants (Hudgson, 1991).  Thomas and Butts (1998) examined primary motivators for travelers staying at hostels and found that motivation for intellectual stimulation was the greatest source of leisure satisfaction.   Similarly, Hudgson (1991) examined psychological benefits of leisure participation of domestic workers and determined intellectual rewards contribute to satisfying leisure experiences.  The notion that intellectual motivation factors significantly contributed to leisure satisfaction may suggest that college students typically do not seek intellectual elements in their participation in leisure activities, but if they do, then they are more likely to have a satisfying leisure experience.

The stimulus avoidance factor was also included in the overall model of leisure satisfaction.  However, the stimulus avoidance factor had the lowest mean of the leisure motivation factors.  This finding also supports the previous research of Beggs et al. (2004) and Wickham et al. (2000) who found that the stimulus avoidance factor was significantly lower than the other motivation factors.  However, as with the intellectual factor, the results suggest that college students typically do not seek stimulus avoidance elements in their leisure, but if they do, then they are more likely to have a satisfying leisure experience.  Although most college students do not participate in leisure activities for the purpose of escape or restoration, the findings suggest that those who do are likely to be satisfied with the leisure experience. 


Competency mastery variables are an important element of satisfying leisure experiences and motivators for college students participating in leisure activities.  It is important for campus leisure service providers to make an effort to provide activities that allow for individuals to improve and develop competencies in activities if possible.  This may be done through offering more instructional programs or workshops in skill development.  It also appears that, aside from competence mastery variables, the factors that motivate college students are not necessarily the same factors that lead to them having satisfying leisure experiences.  Many students are highly motivated by social factors, however this study suggests that social motivation may not lead to a satisfying leisure experience based on the lack of contribution of the social motivation factor to the final regression model.  On the contrary, students are typically not motivated by intellectual and stimulus avoidance factors.  However, the results of this study suggest those who are may be more likely to be satisfied with the leisure experience.  The implications of these findings mean that campus recreation, student organizations, university events, and various commercial and public agencies that provide leisure services to college students need to find ways to attract students to activities that are satisfying and contain competency mastery, intellectual, and stimulus avoidance elements.  The difficulty with this is that college students may be seeking a social element in their activities.  It is of vital importance to acknowledge that students whose leisure participation in campus activities is heavily influenced by their peers may result in an experience not of a satisfying nature. 

Leisure service providers of college students may need to spend more time educating students about satisfying experiences through seminars, conferences, and workshops, or provide leisure activities to college students that include opportunities to learn and use one’s imagination, to compete and challenge oneself, and to escape their life as a student to restore themselves.  Additionally, since the social component is of importance to choosing leisure activities, campus leisure program providers should consider facilitating a social experience when marketing programs and services.  If a student wants to participate in these types of activities, but lacks a social cohort who is also interested in these types of activities, campus program providers may attempt to facilitate this process.  For example, assisting those interested in a competitive intramural sports activity to find a team may provide the opportunity to participate in an activity that results in satisfaction, regardless of their current social network. 

Although attempts to facilitate participation in activities may be commonplace at some organizations, the results of this study suggest that these efforts may need to be more comprehensive in order to provide more satisfying experiences to those who may be socially motivated.  In addition, very little research currently exists to support the proposition that individuals motivated by intellectual or stimulus avoidance factors are more satisfied in their leisure. Additional inquiry is necessary to further understand this phenomenon, as well as to continue to understand how motives influence participation in leisure activities and how one’s leisure motives are associated with leisure satisfaction.


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