Sanford DeVoe, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management; Julian House, a Rotman Ph.D. student and Chen-Bo Zhong, an associate professor at the Rotman School of Management, surveyed a few hundred respondents in the United States on their ability to savor several enjoyable experiences such as discovering a waterfall while hiking.
The researchers analyzed the data on "enjoying life" to U.S. economic census data on the number and concentration of fast-food restaurants in the study participants' neighborhoods relative to sit-down restaurants.
The study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found concentration of fast-food restaurants in a person's neighborhood predicted his or her tendencies to savor opportunities or enjoy pleasurable activities involving natural beauty even after factoring for income and other economic data.
"If you want to raise kids where they're less impatient, they're able to smell the roses, they're able to delay gratification, then you should choose to live in a neighborhood where there is a lower concentration of fast-food restaurants," DeVoe said in a statement.
"We think about fast-food as saving us time and freeing us up to do the things that we want to do. But because it instigates this sense of impatience, there are a whole set of activities where it becomes a barrier to our enjoyment of them."
The researchers speculate that as fast-food can trigger impatience, it hurts a person's ability to slow down and savor life's simpler pleasures.