How We Spend Our Leisure Time

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Special Report: America By the Numbers

Who We Are

•A Demographic Snapshot of America
The country continues to grow, with help from immigration

•The Very Unnatural Naturalization Process
A TIME editor describes what it's like to become an American citizen

•America's Long Debate on Immigration
A historian describes how our attitudes have and haven't changed

Where We Live

•A Geographic Breakdown
Compared with other developing countries, the nation is still just a vast prairie

What We Believe

• How We View God
Your view of God may shape your morals and politics

• Behind America's Different Perceptions of God
Researchers who divided religion into four view of God say that's a better indicator than denomination

• Denomination Nation
See where the largest religious groups live across the U.S.

How We Live

• America's Leisure Time
We have more free time than we did 40 years ago, but it doesn't feel that way

What We Buy

• How We Spend and Why
Experts say that as our population increases, we're going to feel an even greater pressure to spend

If life seems more rushed than ever, you might be surprised to learn that we Americans don't have less leisure time than we did 40 years ago. We actually have more leisure time, and quite a bit more. What counts as leisure is up for argument, but under every definition the numbers have gone up. We get about 45 minutes a day of extra leisure.

Then why does it feel like we have so much less? It might be because we waste half of all our leisure time watching television. The average American adult devotes 2.5 hours a day to this hobby. And for every additional hour we get free, another 30 minutes goes into that boob tube. So if you want more free time, I recommend one thing: turn it off. This is easier said than done, especially during the world series.

When I was growing up, my mom had one piece of advice for me, and she said it every single morning. 'Get out of the house!' It's good advice. Come join the 6.8 million who are in a book club, or the 196,000 who attend pro beach volleyball, or the 680,000 who go to tractor pulls every month. There's even 3 million people who enjoy a sport called 'muzzleloading,' which involves shooting a gun that looks 200 years old.

And at the end of the day, there's a thing in your kitchen called a stove. Turn it on and invite people over. Only 38% of Americans entertain friends or family at home at least once a year. What were the other 62% of us doing? Getting a free meal, I suppose. We can do better, America. If we're going to watch so much television, can't we at least invite friends over to watch?







Phone calls, mail, e-mail

7 min.

14 min.

8 min.

14 min.

Caring for non-household members

13 min.

15 min.

13 min.

14 min.

Religious, civic duties

16 min.

21 min.

20 min.

17 min.

Caring for family

20 min.

43 min.

45 min.

17 min.

Educational activities

28 min.

26 min.

7 min.

51 min.

Buying goods, services

38 min.

58 min.

53 min.

42 min.

Eating, drinking

1 hr. 18 min.

1 hr. 11 min.

1 hr. 24 min.

1 hr. 8 min.

Household activities

1 hr. 20 min.

2 hr. 16 min.

2 hr. 8 min.

1 hr. 26 min.


4 hr. 26 min.

3 hr.

4 hr. 1 min.

3 hr. 18 min.

Watching TV

3 hr. 28 min.

2 hr. 41 min.

2 hr. 24 min.

2 hr. 47 min.

Personal care, sleep

9 hr. 13 min.

9 hr. 37 min.

9 hr. 8 min.

9 hr. 46 min.


Having More Leisure Time —Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time over Five Decades"

Numbers of People Doing Activities —Statistical abstract of the United States, 2004