The One Thing Americans Like to Do Best

CC BY 2.0.

Can you guess what it is?

That Americans like watching TV should come as no surprise, but it is a bit shocking to learn the actual number of hours spent in front of the so-called idiot box. Thanks to the latest American Time Use Study, completed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we now know that Americans spend, on average, 2.7 hours watching TV daily. Those aged 15 to 44 watch the least, clocking in around 2 hours per day, while folks over 65 spend a solid four hours watching each day.

If that’s not depressing enough, time spent socializing and communicating is minimal by comparison, even though it’s the second most popular leisure activity. Visiting with friends, engaging in face-to-face conversation, and attending or hosting social events takes up a mere 31 minutes per weekday. Fortunately it nearly doubles (59 minutes) on weekends, which gives us some hope.

One frustrating, yet unsurprising, discovery is the significant gender discrepancy when it comes to household-related tasks. Sadly, women still do the majority of household chores, with half engaging daily in cleaning or laundry, compared to a paltry 21 percent of men. Similarly, 70 percent of women cook and prepare food on an average day, while only 45 percent of men do so. (It is worth noting, though, that the percentage of male home cooks has gone up 10 percent since 2003, which is a sign of progress, though still pathetically low.)

When it comes to childcare, women also do most of the work. (Surprise!) In households with children under the age of 6, women spend 1.1 hours providing physical care, such as feeding or bathing, whereas men only put in 26 minutes.

A study such as this one is useful because it forces us to analyze the way in which we use our time. It brings to mind the oft-quoted line from Annie Dillard: "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

Time is one of those things that we never seem to have enough of, but yet we squander it and allow it to get cluttered with pointless activities. There’s a time and place for mindless relaxation – everyone needs it once in a while -- but when a habit like excessive TV-watching starts infringing on family conversations and gatherings with friends, we should realize it’s gone too far.

If you want to turn over a new leaf, check out my list of 12 ways to curb your TV addiction, but I can't emphasize enough the final suggestion -- pitch it! Get rid of it! You don't actually need it. (Believe me, I know. I haven't owned a TV in all the years of my life.)