Once again, the researchers are at work with their computer models and statistical flukes. In this case, the Labor Department recently released its 2009 American Time Use Survey telling us how people spend their time.
According to the experts, here’s how we’re using our time in hours and minutes (2009/2007):
- Sleeping (8:40/8:34)
- Watching TV (2:49/2:37)
- Work and work-related activities (3:32/3:49)
- Leisure and sports excluding TV (2:26/2:30)
- House activities (1:48/1:50)
- Eating and drinking (1:13/1:14)
- Personal care (:47/:46)
- Purchasing goods and services (:46/:47)
- Caring for house members (:32/:32)
- Education (:28/:26)
- Organizational, civic and religious activities (:20, :21)
- Other activities (:14/:12)
- Caring for non-household members (:13, :12)
- Telephone calls, mail and email (:12/:11)
Researchers and enlightened members of the media, berate Americans for doing all the wrong things in times of high unemployment, Gulf Oil leaks and state budget woes. They ask: “Why are Americans watching more TV and sleeping when they should spend 16 hours a time job hunting, work harder if they have a job and spend lots of money to improve the economy?” It’s the old line “what’s good for General Motors is good for America.” Well, we know what happened to GM.
My first take on this study, one of many since 2003, reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous line about “lies, damned lies and statistics.” From what I remember in school about averages, there’s the “mean” (ex. total number of hours spent watching TV/total number of Americans); the “median” (the “middle value”) and the “mode” (ex. most Americans sleep 8 hours a day). We’ll forget the “range” for this post.
So some Americans watch TV 10 hours a day and sleep for six. (They have to sleep less to have time to watch TV.) Young people text all day long on their cell phones and skip washing the dishes (well, that would happen anyway). Others contribute dozens of hours a week to religious and charitable organizations reducing time spent on leisure and sports activities. You get the picture.
Taking a positive slant on this study, I’d say it’s very encouraging. If people watch more TV, that supports the advertising industry. Sleeping more, according to other researchers, is good for you. In fact, many recommend sleeping at least 9 hours a day to improve our work productivity and general health. We’re eating one second less per day. If the trend continues, obesity will disappear in about 20 years. Putting away the vacuum cleaner and hiring someone else is great. That helps the unemployed in the cleaning industry. Personal care went up a second too. Hey, if we take care of ourselves and look better, we’ll decrease depression and anxiety.
So I say “yahoo” to the researchers who did this study. As many say, “hope springs eternal” and it’s nice to have employed research experts remind us how we squander our time. I’m still wondering, however, how researchers spend their time when not doing studies.