Despite the rise of the PC and smartphone as a way for people to entertain themselves or talk with others, one leisure activity dominates the day for Americans. We watch TV nearly three hours a day, according to new U.S. Department of Labor figures.
The most recent Labor Department survey “American Time Use Survey (ATUS)” covers 2018. The data collected include a wide range of activities that encompasses what we do when awake, and how much we sleep. However, the study’s focus is partly about how much time the U.S. population spends working and what people do at work. Additionally, there are several sections about what people do when not working, which includes childcare, household duties, and leisure.
The leisure hours included use of PCs, playing games and sports, and exercising. Watching TV, however, has dwarfed everything else in terms of the hours spent on an activity. “Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8 hours per day), accounting for just over half of all leisure time, on average,” the authors wrote. By contrast, people spent much less than half the time reading daily as they did in front of the TV. TV viewing is also about double the time people spent on exercise or sports.
TV research firm Nielsen reports that there were 120 million households that had a TV during the 2017-2018 TV season. Nielsen experts say that means that 95.6% of U.S. household has at least one TV that gets a traditional signal, or is transmitted over cable or through a broadband connection.
Demographically, the largest contrast among Americans who watch TV is between the young and old. Adults ages between 20 and 24 spend two hours a day watching TV on average. Among people over 75, that figure is nearly five hours. While the number is a stark contrast, it is to some extent due to the fact fewer people 75 or older spend any time at work.
Age aside, the new Labor Department data show that Americans spend on average 45 days a year watching TV. Industry producers continue to be adroit at creating television shows that run for years and produce some of the industry’s greatest finales.