American Lives Quantified

I saw this image shared on social media and found it amazingly compelling. It's based on 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey

Not something that I normally check out, mind you, but the data is fascinating. You should check it out and see if you recognize your life or the trends yourself. 

However I didn't like that these were on six separate charts. Thankfully the site, The Atlas, where I found the original image made it easy to download the data. From there it was trivial to put them on a chart the way I wanted to see them - as a stacked area chart so you can see how they compare directly to each other and how they add up. 

 This shows each of the groups we spend time with relative to each other in hours per day as we age. 

This shows each of the groups we spend time with relative to each other in hours per day as we age. 

Seeing the stacked area chart allows us to compare the actual values against each other.

  • We see that our available time is quite low at around eleven hours per day in our teens, peaks to almost seventeen in our 30s, settles to around fifteen throughout our 50s and 60s, and gradually goes down to less than fourteen.
  • The time we spend with family goes from five hours a day to around one for the rest of our lives. Friends goes from around three hours in our teens to one by our 30s. 
  • We seem to find our partners in life in our 20s and 30s when we start spending about three hours together, then in our 60s it jumps over four hours per day until we hit our 80s. 
  • We spend about three and a half hours alone per day in our teens, four in our 20s and 30s, almost five in our 40s, almost six in our 50s, almost seven in our 60s, and approaching eight hours per day alone in our 70s and beyond. For many this may be a depressing statistic. 
 This shows the same data in a forced 100% stacked area chart, showing each group's relative proportion of each day's available time. 

This shows the same data in a forced 100% stacked area chart, showing each group's relative proportion of each day's available time. 

By flattening out the available time per day, you can easily see the proportion of time we spend with each group. In our 30s we only spend about a quarter of our available time alone, whereas by our 70s we spend over half our time alone. It's unclear how much of that is by choice, but it's probably safe to assume that much of it is not. 

Seeing our lives quantified in this way is striking, especially since we are part of a rapidly aging society. We can't stop the march of time, but we can decide how and with whom to spend it.