The American Time-Use Survey (ATUS), conducted by the US Bureau of the
Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has been collecting data on how
Americans spend their time since 2003, using the method of the daily time
diary. In these diaries, survey respondents are asked to recall all of their
activities across the previous 24 hours. In 2010, the ATUS began supplementing
these simple activity accounts with ratings on five psychological states (sad,
tired, stress, pain and happy) from a Social Well-Being (SWB) index designed to
capture how these respondents feel as they engage in these daily activities.
Thus, this ATUS study basically provides a continuous national monitor of
Americans’ everyday subjective quality of life (QOL)—and in “real time” as
personally experienced by respondents. Analysis of these 2010-12 ATUS SWB
ratings from more than 12,000 Americans aged 15 and older reveal that women
score significantly higher than men on all five factors, even though only one
of the adjectives (happy) was in the positive direction. Thus, US women
described their daily activities as more stressful, tiring, sad and painful,
but at the same time also describing their activities as making them feel
happier (suggesting that women see their lives as more engaging, intense or
energizing). In order to control for this gender difference, a simple scale was
derived from two of the items that conveyed basically the same emotional state,
namely happy and sad. When these ratings on two items were paired, virtually no
gender difference was found; nor were many gender differences found when they
rated these feelings on the same activity.
However, there were dramatic
subjective differences across activities that were largely shared by both men
and women, with child play, religious, volunteer and fitness activities rated
near the top of enjoyment and with medical, housework and work activities
nearer the bottom. These results seem generally consistent with enjoyment
ratings in earlier national time-use surveys.
Cite this paper
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