The TV Isn't Dying—Americans Still Overwhelmingly Unwind in Front of One

Niraj Chokshi

Your computer isn't gunning for your TV. Despite countlessaprocryphalstories about the death of the TV, Americans have spent an overwhelming amount of their leisure time in front of one over the last nine years, according to new Labor Department data on how Americans spend their time—a survey first conducted in 2003.

What's on those screens has no doubt changed with the rise of video-on-demand services like Netflix, but TV watching has actually consumed a larger share of American free time in the last year than the year before. On an average day in 2012, adults 15 and older spent six hours in front of one, up from 5.76 hours the year before. The share of free time spent playing games or using a computer for fun fell from just over 52 minutes to just under it. And people spent even less time reading—just under 41 minutes daily last year.

Leisure time in 2012 declined for middle-aged adults, but increased for seniors. And people 75 or older both read more and watched more TV—sometimes several hours more a day—than any other group. People in the 15 to 25 age range socialized more than any others and they also spent more free time playing games and using computers for fun.

All told, Americans spent most of their days last year on personal care, devoting about 9.5 hours to it daily. Seniors over 75 spent the most time on phone calls, mail and e-mail, which probably won't come as a surprise to anyone subjected to a barrage of forwarded e-mails.