Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Leisure Time Paradox

From the American Consumers Newsletter
by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Publications

You probably would scoff at the notion that you have more leisure time than your parents or grandparents did 40 years ago. But that's what time use studies show. Since 1965, men have gained 5.26 additional hours of leisure time per week. Women have an extra 3.56 hours compared to their counterparts in 1965. How come we don't feel more relaxed?

That question has been answered by an examination of trends in leisure time, published in Demography (August 2012). And the answer is: because the quality of our leisure time has declined. Simply put, we aren't having as much fun.

The analysis (by Almudena Sevilla, Jose I. Gimenez-Nadal, and Jonathan Gershuny) measures the quality of leisure time in three ways: pure leisure--or the amount of leisure time spent only in leisure activities with no accompanying non-leisure secondary activities (such as taking calls from your boss); co-present leisure (a better term might be social leisure)--or the amount of leisure time spent with a spouse or other adults but not children (who have a way of turning leisure into work); and leisure fragmentation--or the number of leisure intervals and their length.

The researchers discovered that our pure leisure time has declined, as has the time we spend in social leisure. "Despite general increases in leisure time, Americans report feeling increasingly harried now compared with 40 years ago," they note. "Our findings may help explain this paradox."

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