Social Indicators Research

, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 267–273 | Cite as

Time Spent Eating and Its Implications for Americans’ Energy Balance

  • Cathleen D. ZickEmail author
  • Robert B. Stevens


The upward trend in Americans’ weight has precipitated research aimed at identifying its underlying causes. In this paper we examine trends in Americans’ time spent eating in an attempt to gain a better understanding of Americans’ changing eating habits and their predictors. Data used in the analyses come from four national time use surveys conducted between 1975 and 2007. We find that Americans’ total eating time has risen over the past 30 years largely because of increases in secondary eating time. Multivariate analyses reveal that shifts over time in wage rates, food prices, household income, and racial/ethnic composition may be contributing to Americans’ changing eating patterns.


Time use trends Eating Obesity risk 


  1. American Time Use Survey Eating and Health Module Data. (2008). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. [cited November 10]; Available from:
  2. Arterburn, D. E., Maciejewski, M. L., & Tsevat, J. (2005). Impact of morbid obesity on medical expenditures in adults. International Journal of Obesity, 29(3), 334–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, G. S. (1965). A theory of the allocation of time. Economic Journal, 75(299), 493–517.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, G. S. (1991). A treatise on the family, enlarged edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bellisle, F., & Dalix, A. M. (2001). Cognitive restraint can be offset by distraction, leading to increased meal intake in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 74(2), 197–200.Google Scholar
  6. Bianchi, S. M., Robinson J. P., & Milkie M. A. (Eds.). (2006). Changing rhythms of American family life. Russell Sage Foundation: New York.Google Scholar
  7. Bryant, W. K., & Zick, C. D. (2006). The economic organization of the household (2nd ed). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Improving your eating habits. [cited 2009 April 20]; Available from:
  9. Fontaine, K. R., Redden, D. T., Wang, C., Westfall, A. O., & Allison, D. B. (2003). Years of life lost due to obesity. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(2), 187–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hassan, M. K., Joshi, A. V., Madhavan, S. S., & Amonkar, M. M. (2003). Obesity and health-related quality of life: A cross-sectional analysis of the US population. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 27(10): 1227.Google Scholar
  11. Juster, F. T., Courant, P., Duncan, G. J., Robinson, J. P., & Stafford, F. P. (2001). Time use in economic and social accounts. Ann Arbor: Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research.Google Scholar
  12. Muennig, P., Lubetkin, E., Jia, H., & Franks, P. (2006). Gender and the burden of disease attributable to obesity. American Journal of Public Health, 96(9), 1662–1668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. National Center for Health Statistics. (2008). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults: United States, 20032004. September 9, 2008. [cited 2008 November 12]; Available from:
  14. National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2008) Healthy eating and physical activity across your life span. 2008; [cited 2009 April 20]; Available from:
  15. Robinson, J. P. (1985). The validity and reliability of diaries versus alternative time use measures. In F. T. Juster & F. P. Stafford (Eds.), Time, goods, and well-being (pp. 33–62). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  16. Robinson, J. P. (2007). Americans’ use of time, 1985. Ann Arbor, MI: Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research.Google Scholar
  17. Robinson, J. P., Bianchi, S. M., & Presser, S. (2001). Family interaction, social capital trens in time use, 1998–99. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research.Google Scholar
  18. Robinson, J. P., & Godbey, G. (1997). Time for life: The surprising ways Americans use their time. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Stroebele, N., & De Castro, J. M. (2004a). Effect of ambience on food intake and food choice. Nutrition, 20(9), 821–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Stroebele, N., & de Castro, J. M. (2004b). Television viewing is associated with an increase in meal frequency in humans. Appetite, 42(1), 111–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stroebele, N., & de Castro, J. M. (2006). Listening to music while eating is related to increases in people’s food intake and meal duration. Appetite, 47(3), 285–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2009). Overweight and obesity rates for adults by race/ethnicity, 2008. Available:
  23. Thorpe, K. E. (2006). Factors accounting for the rise in health-care spending in the United States: The role of rising disease prevalence and treatment intensity. Public Health, 120(11), 1002–1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2008a). American time use survey users’ guide. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. [cited 2008 May 27]; Available:
  25. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2008b). Highlights of women's earnings in 2007. In Department of Labor (Ed.). Washington DC.Google Scholar
  26. U.S. Census Bureau. (2007). The 2007 statistical abstract: The national data book. Washington DC.Google Scholar
  27. Wee, C. C., Phillips, R. S., Legedza, A. T., Davis, R. B., Soukup, J. R., Colditz, G. A., et al. (2005). Health care expenditures associated with overweight and obesity among US adults: Importance of age and race. American Journal of Public Health, 95(1), 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake cityUSA

Personalised recommendations