What Americans do when they're off work

After work and sleep, most of us have eight hours to play around with. Here's how we use it.

By 247 Wall St. Jul 3, 2013 3:41PM

Family of three loading car with luggage, low angle view © Juice Images, Cultura, Getty ImagesBy Samuel Weigley, 24/7 Wall St.


After work and sleep, most Americans have eight hours left of their day to spend as they please. So what do they do with it?


Turns out that the amount of time Americans spend watching TV, getting exercise, cleaning or playing sports depends on factors like whether they are men or women, 15 or 64, married or single. And while the economy and technology have changed dramatically in the past decade, how Americans spend their time has remained largely unchanged.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released the results of its 2012 American Time Use Survey. The survey measures the average amount of time Americans spend on different activities in a given day. Personal care, which is mostly taken up by sleep, accounts for the most amount of time, followed by leisure activities including watching TV and playing sports, and then work.


Also at 24/7 Wall St: States with the fastest-growing economies


Men allocate their time differently than women. On an average day, men spent one hour and 17 minutes on household activities, which include housework, food preparation and lawn care. Women spent two hours and 10 minutes on those activities. Men also spent 36 minutes on a given day purchasing goods or services, while women spent about 50 minutes. Women spent just over 14 minutes a day on recreation, sports and exercise, compared to 24.6 minutes for men.


Time was allocated differently based on age as well. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the time devoted to educational activities was by Americans between the ages of 15 and 24. People over the age of 75 spent more than an hour and a half eating and drinking, while people between the ages of 15 and 24 spent just an hour on that activity. 


Based on the survey, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the ways the people 15 and older spend an average day each week. Weekends are factored into the calculation as well. We also reviewed numbers from the survey by gender, age and those who reported engaging in the activity in a given day. 


This is how Americans spend their time when not at work.


1. Personal Care Activities
> Average time spent: 9.49 hours
> Pct. Americans engage on a given day: 100%


Americans spent 9.5 hours partaking in personal care activities -- far more time than on anything else during the day. The vast majority of that time -- eight hours and 44 minutes -- was spent on sleeping. Women slept an average of eight hours and 52 minutes, compared to eight hours and 36 minutes for men. There were some people who got far less sleep, however. For instance, 20% of Americans reported getting less than six hours of sleep a night.


2. Leisure and Sports
> Average time spent: 5.37 hours
> Pct. Americans engage on a given day: 96.2%


Americans spent an average of two hours and 50 minutes a day watching television, making it the most common leisure activity. The more than 80% of people who watched TV on any given day watched more than 3.5 hours a day. Americans on an average day also spent 45 minutes socializing and communicating, with more than 37% of people spending two hours. Americans also spent more than 19 minutes participating in sports, exercise and recreation, with more than 19% participating spending an hour and 40 minutes on these activities.


3. Household Activities
> Average time spent: 1.74 hours
> Pct. Americans engage on a given day: 73.7%


Men spent approximately one hour and 17 minutes performing household activities, while women spent more than two hours and 10 minutes. The most common household activity was housework, which accounted for 36 minutes of an average person’s day. But in both housework and household activities alone, men who participated actually spent more time than women performing these tasks. Also, 11.7% of men participated in lawn and gardening activities on an average day, compared to just 8% of women. Of those who worked on the lawn or garden, men spent 38% more time on the task than women.


4. Eating and Drinking
> Average time spent: 1.25 hours
> Pct. Americans engage on a given day: 96%


Americans spent an hour and 15 minutes a day eating and drinking. As people get older, they spend more time on this activity. For instance, the average person over the age of 75 spent 1.5 hours eating and drinking in 2012, while Americans between 15 and 19 took just an hour. Men spent one hour and 18 minutes eating, compared to one hour and 12 minutes for women.


5. Purchasing Goods and Services
> Average time spent: 0.72 hours
> Pct. Americans engage on a given day: 41.4%


The average American spent more than 43 minutes buying goods and services, with women spending considerably more time than men on this activity. The time spent purchasing goods and services actually has fallen from 48.6 minutes back in 2003. This could decrease further with the rise in e-commerce, which will reduce visits to brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce sales alone are expected to rise 13% in 2013 to $262 billion. By 2017, e-commerce is expected to generate $370 billion in sales, or 10% of all retail purchases, up from 8% currently.


 Read more about how Americans spend their free time at 24/7 Wall St.


Also at 24/7 Wall St: Countries spending the most on health care