I’ve done some light reading on time use this summer — invigorating stuff, I know — and came across some insightful observations from John Robinson. He’s spent the last four decades reviewing thousands of “time journals” from people around the world.
Contrary to what you might think, Robinson argues we have more free time today than when he started keeping records in the ’60s, something The Atlantic corroborates. Only now we choose to fill that free time with overwork or busy-ness instead of proper leisure (e.g. relaxation, hobbies, or adventures) because that’s how many of us validate our existence.
A few highlight findings from Robinson’s work: People in Spain spend the most time walking (good for them!), Italians and Slovenians spend the most time relaxing (nice!), and Bulgarians (not Americans!) spend the most time watching TV (it’s your life). In the United States, people spend more time on computers than in other countries, they volunteer more, and they spend the most time taking care of children and the elderly.
I suspect the increase in childcare is partially due to the rise of helicopter parenting. But those are mostly noble uses of American’s time, I believe. That is, of course, if they’re using computers to work smarter, work less, and plan really cool offline leisure with.