If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that humans truly are social creatures. Most of us need community and connection to thrive.
But when people are not socially distancing and limiting their contacts, who do they choose to spend time with?
This interactive chart from Our World in Data reveals who Americans spend the most daily minutes with at different ages of their life, based on data collected between 2009 and 2019 through the Time Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Adolescence to Adulthood
In the average American’s teenage years, they spend most of their time alone and with their family. This makes sense, as the majority of people under 18 still live in a home with their nuclear family unit, meaning parents and siblings.
Jumping forward to a person’s early adulthood, 25-year-olds spend an average of 275 minutes per day alone, and 199 minutes with coworkers. This aligns with people in their twenties beginning to enter the workforce.
By age 35, people are still spending the most time with themselves, at 263 minutes per day. However, time spent combined with children and partners, the runner-ups, adds up to 450 minutes or around 7.5 hours a day.
|Age||Most Time Spent||Second||Third|
|15||Family – 267 Minutes||Alone – 193 Minutes||Friends – 109 Minutes|
|25||Alone – 275 Minutes||Coworkers – 199 Minutes||Partner – 121 Minutes|
|35||Alone – 263 Minutes||Children – 249 Minutes||Partner – 198 Minutes|
Although people are spending more time with kids and partners as they grow older, this trend may shift, as women are having fewer children. More women today are obtaining an education and are entering the workforce, causing them to delay or entirely put off having children.
Interestingly, the mid-thirties also tends to be the stage of life where time spent with friends levels off and remains steadily low throughout the rest of one’s life, usually sitting around an average of 30-40 minutes per day.
Middle to Old Age
Upon turning 45, the average person spends 309 minutes a day alone, and in second place, 199 minutes with children. Time with coworkers remains relatively steady throughout someone’s forties, which coincides with the middle of career for most workers.
At age 55, time spent alone is still the winner, but time spent with a partner goes up to 184 minutes, and time with coworkers also moves up, pushing out time spent with children.
|Age||Most Time Spent||Second||Third|
|45||Alone – 309 Minutes||Children – 199 Minutes||Partner – 184 Minutes|
|55||Alone – 384 Minutes||Partner – 184 Minutes||Coworkers – 163 Minutes|
|65||Alone – 444 Minutes||Partner – 243 Minutes||Family – 65 Minutes|
|75||Alone – 463 Minutes||Partner – 253 Minutes||Family – 56 Minutes|
Typically, time spent with children during the mid-fifties tends to see a sharp decline as children enter adulthood and begin to move out.
However, it will be interesting to see what impact COVID-19 has on future data. With implications such as job loss or reduced income, more children are staying at home longer or even moving back home. 52% of adult children in the U.S. today are living with their parents.
As people get closer to old age, around 65-years-old, they spend increasingly less time with coworkers as they begin to retire, and much more time alone or with a spouse. Then, from age 65-75, people consistently spend the most time alone, then with a partner and family.
Alone and Lonely?
One of the most significant trends on the chart is increased time spent alone.
By the time someone reaches 80, their daily minutes alone goes up to 477. This can be a problematic reality. As the population continues to age in many countries around the world, more elderly people are left without resources or social connection.
Additionally, while 1-in-4 elderly Americans live alone, the trend of solo living is going up across nearly every age group, and this trend applies globally.
But being alone does not necessarily equate to loneliness, as Our World in Data found that there was no direct correlation between living alone and reported feelings of loneliness.
It is not necessarily the amount of time spent with others, but the quality and expectations, that reduce loneliness.
Spending Time Together
Where and how we spend our time has a direct relationship to who we spend time with. More hours at home and off work can mean either more time spent with family, children, and partners, or more time spent alone.
Regardless of who we spend the most time with, the pandemic revealed the importance of human connection to our wellbeing. While many are still doing this through their screens or at a six-foot distance, 2021 could be the year we break out of our bubbles and get back to time spent together.
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