In the minority — again

It’s surprising sometimes what the federal government looks at. As the name suggests, one of its latest reports — the American Time Use Survey — looks at the activities that make up our days. Among other things, it shows I’m once again in the minority, this time in “leisure time.”

According to the study, Americans age 15 and older spend an average of 2.57 hours a day on weekdays watching television and 3.24 hours on weekends. By my math, that’s just more than 19 hours a week. And people in my age group spend even more time watching TV, about 22 ½ hours. Unfortunately, I can’t find a definition of what constitutes watching television so it isn’t clear if something like streaming television programs is included or falls within using computers for leisure. Regardless, television doesn’t have much competition. The second ranked activity is “socializing and communicating,” which we spend about half an hour doing each weekday and double that during the weekend.

One of the more distressing items is that those 15 to 19 spend more than 5 hours watching TV on weekends but only 8 ½ minutes reading. And with the exception of slight drop for those 25 to 34, at least the amount of time spent reading steadily increases. Still, the most any age group averages reading on weekends is two hours and just under an hour on a weekday — but that’s people age 75 and older. People in my age group spend less than half an hour reading any day. In contrast, I probably spend as much time reading as others my age watch television and about as much time watching TV as they spend reading. But, as renowned philosopher Sly Stone put it, “different strokes for different folks.”

By the way, although the numbers are skewed because not everybody works, Americans spend an average of about 4 ½ hours working each day during the week, compared to more than 5 hours in leisure activities. The “activity’ we spend the most time on is sleeping, about 8 ½ hours a day.

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.

John Burroughs, The Writings of John Burroughs, Vol. 17

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