Do Americans Work More and Play Less?

by Hannah Punitha on Dec 10 2008 3:33 PM

A poll conducted by Harris Interactive says that Americans are working a little bit more and playing a lot less.

This year, the median time Americans spent working, which included housekeeping and studying, was 46 hours a week while the median time spent playing was just 16 hours, according to the poll, for which Harris surveyed 1,010 adults by phone over four days in October.

Time spent working had risen by only one hour compared with last year, but leisure time had plunged four hours, or by 20 percent, from 2007, when the median time per week spent in leisure pursuits was 20 hours.

Harris posited that the missing three hours were spent in a "nebulous, grey area" which Americans considered neither working nor playing.

"As the American economic situation worsened, people who were worried about their jobs spent more time 'just checking in' via computer or wireless device," Harris said.

"While our respondents didn't consider this as time spent working, they also didn't count it as leisure time and landing instead in a nebulous grey area," the polling agency said.

In fact, Americans' leisure time in 2008 was plumbing an all-time low since 1973, when Harris began tracking how Americans work and spend their free time.

Thirty-five years ago, Americans worked 41 hours and played more than half that amount -- 26 hours, or around two-thirds of the time they spent working.

This year, the play to work ratio was around half of what it was in 1973: play-time was less than 35 percent of work-time in 2008.

Asked how they liked to spend their leisure time, 30 percent of Americans chose reading as their favorite activity, up one percentage point from 2007.

Next came watching television which 24 percent of Americans said was their preferred leisure activity this year compared with 18 percent last year.

In third, at 17 percent, was spending time with family, up three points from 2007, the poll showed.