US Leisure Time Plummets 20% in 2008, Hits New Low

January 8, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Media & Entertainment | Television

The average amount of weekly free time Americans have for leisure activities fell 20% in 2008 – from 20 hours in 2007 to 16 hours last year – and now amounts to 10 hours less than the amount of leisure time (26 hours) in 1973 when tracking began, according to results from The Harris Poll.


Additional findings from the survey:

  • The biggest changes for 2008 in how people are using their leisure time are 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).
  • ?Three in ten (30%) Americans say their favorite activity is reading (up from 29% in 2007) while one-quarter (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, up slightly from 45 hours in 2007. In 1973, when this question was first asked, the median was 41 hours a week.


  • By generation, Generation Xers (those age 32-43) are working the most hours (55 each week), followed by 50 hours each week for Echo Boomers (age 18-31) and Baby Boomers (44-62). As many Matures are retired, they are only working 15 hours each week.

Time “Checking In” is Grey Area

In a seemingly paradoxical situation, the research shows that Americans increased their work week one hour, yet claim to have lost four hours of leisure time. Harris conjectures that this “grey area” can be explained because the extra time is time spent? “just checking in” via computer or wireless devices.

“While our respondents didn’t consider this as time spent working, they also didn’t count it as leisure time,” Harris said.

Also, as leisure time shrinks, Americans appear to be indulging more in solo activities, Harris found. Four of this year’s top five choices are typically done alone: reading, watching TV, exercising, and computer activities. Reading, watching TV and exercising all increased this year, while computer activities dropped 2 points. Though this may again seem counterintuitive, Harris said this can possibly be explained by the theory that Americans are spending just as much or more time on computer activities, yet are considering this time as neither work nor leisure.

About the Harris Poll: The Harris Poll? was conducted by Harris Interactive and surveyed 1,010 adults age 18+ in the US between October 16-19, 2008. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, size of place (urbanicity) and number of phone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

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