The research, led by Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz, builds on research he carried out with colleague Anne Frenzel in 2006, in which they identified four types of boredom.
The newly identified boredom subtype is "an especially unpleasant form that resembles learned helplessness or depression."
Researchers used two real-time studies which included 63 German university students and 80 German high school students. The students were asked to log their experiences during the day and complete a digital questionnaire about their activities.
The high school group reported high levels of apathetic boredom, with 36 percent saying they experienced the emotion relatively frequently. This worried the researchers as there had been previous studies linking depression and boredom.
Goetz had in 2006 identified four types of boredom based on their arousal levels, or how positive or negative the experience was. These four types were Indifferent boredom, defined as being relaxed, withdrawn and indifferent; Calibrating boredom, defined as being uncertain and receptive to change/distraction; Searching boredom, defined as being restless and in active pursuit of change/distraction; and Reactant boredom, defined as being motivated to leave a situation for specific alternatives.
According to Goetz, the type of boredom depends on the type of experiences an individual has rather than the intensity of the boredom. Different people can have a disposition suited to one or another type of boredom, and often experience the same type throughout life.
Goetz worked in cooperation with colleagues at the University of Munich, the University of Ulm, McGill University in Montreal, City University of New York and the Thurgau University of Teacher Education. Apathetic boredom is fully described in the Springer journal Motivation and Emotion.