How Americans Spend Their Time - How Much Free Time?

shell sleep poll mothers

Americans enjoy some of the highest standards of living in the world. Although the United States trails other countries in such significant measures of health and wellbeing as infant mortality and life expectancy, the world generally respects—even envies—the quality of life enjoyed by most Americans.

Americans do work hard. Although the number of hours of nonwork time available to Americans has not changed significantly since the 1970s, public opinion surveys consistently report that Americans believe they have less free time today than in the past. Workers who participated in the Shell Poll, a study conducted by Shell Oil Company in 2000, indicated that if given a choice between an extra day off from work or an extra day's wages every two weeks, they preferred more time off by a margin of 58% to 40%. For workers aged thirty-five to sixty-four, 67% indicated that they would rather have more time off.

Working parents report the least free time. According to the Shell Poll, only 48% of mothers believe they have enough personal leisure time. This reflects a dramatic decline from a Gallup survey conducted in 1963, when 70% of mothers were happy with their free time. Almost three-quarters of working mothers reported to Shell that on Sunday nights, after doing household chores and running errands on weekends, they do not feel rested and ready for a new work week.

In the free time Americans do have, they are sleeping less. According to Sleep in America, a survey published in 2002 by the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, 68% of poll respondents admitted getting less than eight hours' sleep on weeknights. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed believed they were not getting the minimum amount needed to avoid feelings of drowsiness during the day.

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