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Surprising Science

Infographic: How We Spend Our Days

Visualization of how the average working American adult spends the days of his or her life.

Nathan Yau is a statistician, and he has an awesome website called Flowing Data. On it, he visualizes data sets so that non-math-heads can see what they represent more clearly. He’s just posted a fascinating infographic that shows how we spend the days of our lives from ages 18 to 78.8 years — that’s 22,573 days. The infographic is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, and there are some intriguing takeaways.

Yau is showing averages — for example, someone with kids has a slightly different allocation of activities — so most people’s actual time spent will be a little different than the mean shown here. And the visualization also assumes a person works through their adult life and then retires at 65, which may or may not be true for you.

Here’s Yau’s infographic:


Some of the things that jump right out are:

  • We spend more time sleeping than doing anything else: 8,031 days-worth.
  • We sleep almost twice as much as we have fun (4,306 days).
  • We socialize more than we work: 4,306 days vs. 3,716 days
  • We spend slightly more time traveling and commuting (1,148 days) than we do eating or drinking (1,052 days)
  • We spend about a quarter as much time on our faiths (138 days) as we do putting them into practice by volunteering (135 days) and taking care of household members (321 days) and people outside our home (126 days).
  • We spend almost three months of adult lives on the phone (85 days).
  • If you’re curious to see how an average day flies by for an equally average 1,000 people — based on the same time use survey — Yau’s made this other incredibly entertaining visualization. (Click the image below for Yau’s live version, and be sure to try the FAST speed.)


    For Yau’s full explanation of what the dots represent, and more, be sure to check out his entire “A Day in the Life of Americans” post.


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