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Chart of the week: How we spend our time

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 06 Jul 2023

Time may be relative, but that doesn’t stop our national statisticians from attempting to track what we do each and every minute of the day.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), adults in the UK spend 24 hours each day on a wide range of activities.

Our chart this week analyses how we spend our time divided into five broad categories, starting with sleep and rest, which takes up 8.9 hours a day on average, followed by 2.9 hours on average spent on personal and family activities. Unpaid household work takes up 2.6 hours, while work and study absorbs a further 4.2 hours, leaving an average of 5.4 hours for leisure and other activities.

These numbers are averages across the whole week, including weekends, and are based on all adults from the age of 18, including those who have retired.

The statistics are more detailed than shown in the chart with personal and family time of 2.9 hours breaking down into 2.4 hours on personal care, 0.4 hours on unpaid childcare, and 0.1 on unpaid adult care. Personal care in turn can be further analysed into 1.3 hours spent eating and drinking, 0.9 hours on washing, dressing, using the bathroom or self-grooming, 0.1 hours on medication or other health-related care, and 0.1 hours in other personal activities.

The average amount of time spent on work and study of 4.2 hours comprises an average of 1.0 hours travelling, 2.1 hours working away from home, 0.8 hours working from home, and 0.3 hours on study. 

Leisure and other activities of 5.4 hours a day include an average of 3.7 hours in entertainment, socialising and other free time, 0.8 hours using a computer or other device, 0.3 hours on exercise, sports and wellbeing, 0.2 hours on DIY or gardening, 0.1 hours volunteering and 0.3 hours on other activities.

These numbers are averages over the course of a year and how we spend our time will of course vary according to age, gender, employment or study status, physical health, lifestyle and personal interests, as well as by time of year such as when we are on vacation. 

The one constant, at least on our planet’s surface, is that we have only a total of 24 hours to work with. Within that limitation, how to spend our time wisely, or perhaps even enjoyably, will always be a challenge.

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