Precious Little Time

Another index declining this year is the shrinking of America's leisure time, according to the latest results from The Harris Poll, tracking America's leisure time since 1973. The poll finds that The median number of leisure hours available each week dropped 20% in 2008, from 20 hours in 2007, to an all-time low of only 16 hours this year. This continues a trend which has seen America's median weekly leisure time shrink 10 hours from 26 hours per week in 1973.

The Harris Interactive survey of  1,010 adults between October 16 and 19, 2008 found that:

  • The biggest changes this year in how people are using their precious leisure time were in TV watching (up 6 points), exercise (up 3 points) and spending time with family and kids (up 3 points)
  • Since 1995 the largest changes in how people are spending their leisure time are exercising (up 6 points), computer activities (up 5 points), spending time with family and kids (up 5 points) and swimming (down 5 points)
  • 30% of Americans say their favorite activity is reading (up from 29% in 2007) while 24% say it is TV watching and 17% say it is spending time with family and kids (up from 14% in 2007). Rounding out the top five leisure time activities are exercise (8%) and computer activities and fishing (each at 7%);
  • The median amount of time spent working, including housekeeping and studying, is now at 46 hours per week, slightly from 45 hours in 2007. In 1973, when this question was first asked, the median was 41 hours a week
  • Generation Xers (ages 32-43) are working the most hours (55 each week), followed by 50 hours each week for Echo Boomers (18-31) and Baby Boomers (44-62). As many Matures are retired, they are only working 15 hours each week.

In 2008, Americans increased their work week one hour, yet claim to have lost four hours of leisure time. As the American economic situation worsened, opined the report, people who were worried about their jobs spent more time "just checking in" via computer or wireless device and didn't consider it as time working, nor did they count it as leisure time.

Also, as leisure time shrinks, four of this year's top activities are reading, watching TV, exercising, and computer activities. The research indicates that US Internet penetration is at an all-time high, it adding credence to the theory that Americans may be spending just as much or more time on computer activities, yet are considering this time as neither work nor leisure.

Top 10 Favorite Leisure-Time Activities (% of Respondents, Unaided Responses)

 

2003

2004

2007

2008

Reading

24%

35%

29%

30%

TV watching

17

21

18

24

Spending time with family/kids

17

20

14

17

Exercise (aerobics, weights)

6

6

5

8

Computer activities

5

7

9

7

Fishing

9

8

7

7

Going to movies

7

10

7

6

Golf

3

4

5

6

Walking

4

6

6

6

Gardening

6

6

6

5

Source: Harris Poll, October 2008

 

Biggest Favorite Changes Since 1995 (% of Respondents)

 

1995

2008

 Change (Points)

Exercise

2%

8%

+6

Computer activities

2

7

+5

Spending time with family/kids

12

17

+5

Swimming

7

2

-5

Source: Harris Poll, October 2008

 

Biggest Favorite Changes Since Last Year (% of Respondents)

 

2007

2008

Change

T.V. Watching

18%

24%

+6

Spending time with family/kids

14

17

+3

Exercise

5

8

+3

Source: Harris Poll, October 2008

 

Work Hours Per Week (% of Respondents; Hours a week spent at job or occupation, including keeping house or going to school, as well as working for pay or profit)

Year

Median Number of Work Hours

2008

46

2007

45

2004

50

2003

49

2002

47

2001

50

2000

50

1980

47

1973

41

Source: Harris Poll, October 2008

 

Leisure Hours Available Per Week (% of Respondents; Hours each week to relax, watch TV, take part in sports or hobbies, go swimming or skiing, go to the movies, theater, concerts, or other forms of entertainment, get together with friends, etc)

Year

Median Number of Leisure Hours

2008

16

2007

20

2004

19

2003

19

2002

20

2001

20

2000

20

1980

19

1973

26

Source: Harris Poll, October 2008

 

Work And Leisure Time Per Week (Demographic Categories)

 

Work hours

Leisure hours

All Adults

46

16

Age

 

 

   Echo Boomers (18-31)

 50

14

   Gen. X (32-43)

 55

20

   Baby Boomers (44-62)

 50

20

   Matures (63+)

15

24

Region

 

 

   East

45

20

   Midwest

49

14

   South

50

20

   West

40

15

Gender

 

 

   Male

50

20

   Female

40

15

Race/Ethnicity

 

 

   White

50

20

   Black

40

10

   Hispanic

50

10

Household Income

 

 

   Less than $35,000

40

10

   $35,000 - $49,999

45

15

   $50,000 - $74,999

50

20

   $75,000 or more

50

20

Children

 

 

   Households with children

50

12

   Households with no children

45

16

Source: Harris Poll, October 2008

For additional information, please visit Harris Interactive here.

 

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1 comment about "Precious Little Time".
  1. Gus Klein from LA GAY AND LESBIAN CENTER , December 24, 2008 at 12:07 p.m.

    I always find these analysis intriguing, and question the metrics that set them up.

    What we have understood as "leisure time" is changing as we have come to multitask. If gardening is "leisurely", is farming? Can't I now be on a tractor watching Hulu?

    As society has come to adapt a work style that is more personalized, specialized, localized, and customized, is it fair to say "leisure time" is shrinking? Or, becoming more compatible with our work life? I can graze at Facebook and still update my employer's profiles.
    Where is that study? :)