Americans today have less free time, study says

December 8, 2008

The latest results from The Harris Poll tracking leisure time reveal that America’s leisure time is shrinking. Harris Interactive surveyed 1,010 adults during three days in October and also found that how these people spend their free time is changing too.

In 2008, the median number of hours spent on leisure time dropped 20 percent — from 20 hours in 2007 to an all-time low of 16 hours this year. In 1973, when the poll started, the median weekly leisure time was 26 hours per week. This year, more people are watching TV, exercising and spending time with their children and families. And since 1995, the largest changes in how people are using their leisure time are exercising, computer activities, spending time with family and kids and swimming.

The median amount of time Americans spent working, including housekeeping and studying, is now at 46 hours per week, up from 45 hours in 2007 and 41 hours in 1973. People ages 32-43 are working the most hours (55 per week) while those ages 18-31 and 44-62 are working 50 hours per week. So, Americans have increased their work week by one hour but have lost four hours of leisure time per week as well. And as these free moments decrease, people are participating in more activities by themselves like reading, watching TV, exercising (which have all increased) and computer activities (which dropped 2 points). Though Internet usage is at an all-time high, this statistic may be because Americans do not consider this time as work or leisure, according to the study.

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