Get access

Downshifting: An Exploration of Motivations, Quality of Life, and Environmental Practices


  • The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant #: 865-2008-18), and the thoughtful commentary of three anonymous reviewers.


“Downshifting,” reducing work hours, thereby income, to increase leisure time, offers a possible individual-level solution to the stress many experience from long working hours and work intensification. Recently, some have argued that an increase in leisure time with a reduction in income might also foster pro-environmental lifestyles as has been demonstrated for the “voluntary simplicity” movement. Quantitative research on the relationship between downshifting and quality of life is scant, with equivocal results, and studies of the relationship between downshifting and environmental lifestyles are even more rare. Survey data from a western Canadian city reveal nonsignificant impacts of downshifting on two measures of quality of life (subjective well-being and satisfaction with time use) as well as on sustainable transportation practices. However, downshifting is significantly associated with sustainable household practices. In order for downshifting to have more widespread positive effects, further structural changes in broader domains such as work culture, urban design, and support for families will be required.