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Who do Americans spend their time with?

Throughout history, humans have relied on cooperation and social relationships to thrive. Sure, who we spend time with evolves throughout our lives.

Using information from the American Time Use Survey and Our World in Data, we examine who Americans spend the most time with at different ages in their lives.

From adolescence to adulthood

During the average American’s teenage years, he spends most of his time alone and with his family. This makes sense because the majority of people under 18 still live in a home with their nuclear family unit, i.e. parents and siblings. Unsurprisingly, adolescence is also when time spent with friends reaches its peak.

In early adulthood, a 25-year-old person spends on average 275 minutes per day alone and 199 minutes with colleagues. This corresponds to people in their twenties who are starting to enter the labor market.

At 35, people still spend the most time with themselves, 263 minutes per day. However, the time spent combined with children and partners, the latter, totals 450 minutes or around 7.5 hours one day.

Age Most of the time spent Second Third
15 Family – 267 Minutes Alone – 193 Minutes Friends – 109 Minutes
25 Alone – 275 Minutes Colleagues – 199 Minutes Partner – 121 Minutes
35 Alone – 263 Minutes Children – 249 Minutes Partner – 198 Minutes

Although people spend more time with their children and partners as they age, this trend may change as women have fewer children. More and more women today are getting an education and entering the labor market, forcing them to delay or put off having children altogether.

Middle to old age

At age 45, the average person spends 309 minutes one day alone, and in second place, 199 minutes with children. Time spent with co-workers remains relatively stable throughout midlife, coinciding with mid-career for most people in the workforce.

At age 55, time spent alone still ranks first, but time spent with a partner climbs to 184 minutes, and the time spent with colleagues also increases, pushing back the time spent with children.

Age Most of the time spent Second Third
45 Alone – 309 Minutes Children – 199 minutes Partner – 184 Minutes
55 Alone – 384 Minutes Partner – 184 Minutes Colleagues – 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 in their mid-fifties tends to decrease sharply as children move into adulthood and begin to move house or spend more time away from home.

Today, more and more children are staying at home longer or even returning home. 52% of adult children in the United States today live with their parents.

As people approach old age, around age 65, they spend less and less time with co-workers as they begin to retire, and much more time alone or with a spouse. Next, from age 65 to 75, people consistently spend the most time alone, followed by a partner and family.

Alone and lonely?

One of the most significant trends in the graph is the increase in time spent alone.

time spent alone by age

By the time someone reaches 80, their daily minutes alone reach 477. This can be a problematic reality. As the population continues to age in many countries around the world, more and more older people find themselves without resources or social connections.

Moreover, while a quarter of older Americans to live alonethe tendency to live alone is on the rise in almost all age groups, and this trend applies to a number of mature economies around the world.

Chart showing what percentage of Americans live, by age

A natural conclusion would be that increasing alone time has negative impacts on people, however, being alone does not necessarily mean loneliness. Our World in Data found that there was no direct correlation between living alone and reported feelings of loneliness.

A final consideration is the role technology plays in our social interactions. Thanks to smartphones and social platforms, alone time doesn’t have to mean isolation.

It is not just the amount of time spent with others, but the quality and expectations that reduce loneliness.

Where does this data come from?

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey, consulted on Our World in Data.

Remarks: As time-use survey respondents track their activity, they indicate who was present at each recorded activity. This results in the data used in this article. Note that individuals may be counted twice, since people of different categories may be present at the same time.

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