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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1995  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/06/1995   
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Contents >> Culture and Leisure >> Special Feature: Leisure at home

Special Feature: Leisure at home

On average, people spent nearly 4 hours a day on home leisure activities in 1992. Participation in home leisure activities generally increased with age.

The emergence of a leisured society in industrialised nations has been predicted since the early 1970s1. Such a society is characterised by increased participation by all people in cultural and leisure activities. Much of this increased participation in, and time spent on, leisure can be expected to occur in the home. In 1992 people spent just over half of their total leisure time at home on an average day.


Home leisure

Leisure time is defined as the free time people have for pursuits other than those which are necessary (eg sleeping), contracted (eg paid employment), or committed (eg housework). Unpaid work such as gardening and home maintenance are not classified as leisure in this review.

Leisure activities undertaken at home include watching television or videos, relaxing, socialising, listening to music and participating in arts, crafts and hobbies. Sometimes these activities are done together with another activity, eg ironing while watching television or studying while listening to the radio. In such cases the ironing or studying are usually classified as the main activity and the leisure activity is secondary. Secondary activities have been excluded from this review.

The main data source for this review is the 1992 Time Use Survey which collected information about participation in, and time spent on, home leisure activities by people aged 15 and over. In the Time Use Survey, participation rates measure the proportion of people participating in an activity on an average day. Therefore they best reflect participation in the most common, everyday home leisure activities. Those leisure activities which occur mainly at weekends, or only infrequently, eg arts, crafts, hobbies and watching videos, will have relatively low participation rates on an average day basis.


Participation in home leisure
Home leisure activities are generally non-physical or passive. They are relatively inexpensive, generally accessible at times which suit the participant, and the amount of time spent on them is easily managed. These general characteristics affect participation in home leisure activities.

In 1992, 95% of people participated in some home leisure activity on an average day. Participation in home leisure activities generally increased with age. This may be because most home leisure activities are passive in nature, inexpensive and do not require access to transport.

Watching television (TV) was the most popular home leisure activity. 71% of people watched TV at home on an average day. Although watching TV was popular among all age groups, proportionally more older people watched than younger people. 55% of people spent some time relaxing on an average day. As with watching TV, older people engaged in this activity more than younger people.

21% of people participated in each of socialising at home (having visitors) and reading newspapers, but participation patterns varied across age groups. The proportion of people who socialised ranged between 19% of those aged 45-54 and 26% of those aged 65 and over. Reading newspapers was relatively uncommon among young people, with 8% of those aged 15-24 participating. The proportion of people reading newspapers increased with age, reaching 40% among those aged 65 and over.

8% of people listened to the radio as a main activity on an average day. It is likely that many more people actually listened to the radio but they did so as a secondary activity while doing something else.

Watching videos and playing computer games were more popular with younger people than older people but they had relatively low overall participation rates. This is partly because these activities do not tend to be undertaken daily.

PARTICIPATION IN SELECTED HOME LEISURE ACTIVITIES, 1992

15-24 years
25-34 years
35-44 years
45-54 years
55-64 years
65+ years
All persons
Activity
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Watching TV
66.7
67.9
67.3
71.0
73.8
81.1
70.5
Relaxing/thinking
48.8
53.4
52.5
55.0
58.9
68.1
55.1
Socialising (having visitors)
19.1
20.4
19.5
18.9
23.6
25.8
20.8
Reading newspapers
7.6
14.1
18.9
24.3
31.9
40.4
20.8
Listening to radio
5.5
5.1
5.4
7.5
11.7
18.7
8.2
Arts, crafts, hobbies
1.2
2.6
2.6
5.1
8.6
11.2
4.5
Exercise at home
4.1
3.8
3.6
3.1
4.6
7.3
4.3
Watching videos
5.3
6.2
4.1
3.6
2.6
1.6
4.2
Indoor games
2.0
1.9
1.9
3.1
3.8
8.9
3.3
Playing computer games
3.6
1.6
1.2
0.8*
* *
* *
1.5
Listening to recorded music
1.4
1.1
0.6*
0.6*
1.3*
1.9
1.1
All home leisure
92.0
93.8
94.7
95.4
95.9
97.1
94.5

Source: Time Use Survey


Time spent on home leisure activities
In 1992 people who spent time on home leisure spent an average of nearly 4 hours a day with little difference between men and women. People aged 65 and over who engaged in home leisure spent 77% of their daily leisure time at home. This represented almost 6 hours a day. In comparison, people aged 15-24 who engaged in home leisure spent 51% of their daily leisure time at home, representing about 3 hours a day.

People who watched television did so for an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes a day, 2 hours and 35 minutes for men and 2 hours and 12 minutes for women. While watching TV is accessible, inexpensive and passive, its popularity perhaps also lies in its ability to cater for a wide range of audience tastes and preferences. People aged 65 and over who watched TV spent the most time on this activity, 3 hours and 9 minutes a day. Those aged 35-44 spent the least time watching, 2 hours and 5 minutes a day. People who watched TV as a secondary activity while doing something else did so for an average of 1 hour a day.

People who spent time socialising engaged in this activity for an average of 1 hour and 41 minutes a day. Time spent on socialising was about the same for all age groups and both men and women. While only 1% of men and 8% of women participated in arts, crafts or hobbies on an average day, those who did so spent a relatively long time on this activity. Men spent an average of 2 hours and 11 minutes a day and women spent an average of 1 hour and 53 minutes a day. People who listened to recorded music, listened to the radio, read newspapers or exercised at home spent an average of less than 1 hour a day on these activities.

AVERAGE TIME SPENT PER DAY ON HOME LEISURE BY PARTICIPANTS, 1992



Source: Time Use Survey

AVERAGE TIME SPENT ON SELECTED HOME LEISURE ACTIVITIES BY PARTICIPANTS, 1992

Men
Women
Persons
Activity
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day

Watching TV
155
132
143
Arts, crafts, hobbies
131
113
114
Socialising (having visitors)
102
101
101
Watching videos
107
92
100
Playing computer games
92
74
86
Indoor games
68
58
62
Relaxing/thinking
61
61
61
Listening to recorded music
67
43
58
Listening to radio
48
41
44
Reading newspapers
47
36
42
Exercise
34
33
34
All home leisure
234
236
235

Source: Time Use Survey


International comparison
Australian households have high rates of colour TV and video cassette recorder (VCR) ownership when compared to other OECD countries. Canada has a relatively low rate of TV ownership and France and the Netherlands have low rates of ownership of VCRs.
HOUSEHOLDS WITH COLOUR TVS AND VCRS, 1991

Colour TVs
VCRs
Country
%
%

Australia
98
72
Canada
84
70
France
92
52
Japan
99
70
Netherlands
96
52
New Zealand
97
64
Sweden
94
63
United Kingdom
94
72
United States
98
71

Source: Screen Digest Ltd (1992) Screen Digest

Home leisure products
Throughout the 20th century, technological advances have been used to develop new home leisure products. These products have played an important role in shaping patterns of leisure consumption in the home. For example, the widespread use of radio from the 1930s, television from the 1950s, and video cassette recorders (VCRs) and personal computers (PCs) from the 1980s and 1990s have fundamentally altered the home leisure landscape.

The further potential for change resulting from the latest developments in interactive multi-media is reflected in the government's 1994 cultural policy statement, Creative Nation, which states 'Interactive multi-media has the potential to become a new force in education, art, culture and service, and the biggest information business in the world.'2

Since the introduction of television in Australia in 1956, the number of households with TV sets has increased steadily. By 1991, 99% of households had at least one TV set. The high rate of TV penetration reflects the medium's ability to cater for a wide audience. Watching TV is also a largely passive and low cost activity allowing participation by virtually everyone. Patterns of TV watching are easily managed, particularly since the introduction of the VCR. The home TV set is also increasingly the core of a complete home entertainment system.

VCR ownership increased slowly in the late 1970s and early 1980s as video technology developed. However, between 1981 and 1993 the percentage of households with VCRs increased from 3% to 80%. During this time the number of households with VCRs grew from about 150,000 to almost 4.5 million and the number with two or more VCRs grew from 10,000 to 437,000.

The increased ownership of VCRs is related to their increasing affordability and the availability of feature films in video format. In 1976 the average price of a VCR was $4,684 in 1989-90 dollars. By 1993 the average price in 1989-90 dollars had decreased to $446. In 1978 there were only two feature film titles available on video; by 1993, 33,000 titles were available.

Household ownership of compact disc players (CDs) grew steadily from 4% in 1986 to 33% in 1993. In 1984, 390,000 discs were sold. In 1992, just over 26.5 million discs were sold.

Household ownership of PCs increased from 26% in 1991 to 29% in 1993. In this time the number of PCs in homes grew from 151,000 to 175,000. In 1994, 18% of households had a PC dedicated to games and used regularly by household members3.

HOUSEHOLDS WITH TVs, VCRs, CDs AND PCs

Year
TVs(a)
VCRs
CDs
PCs
%
%
%
%

1956
1
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
1961
55
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
1966
87
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
1971
91
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
1976
92
0
n.a.
n.a.
1981
92
3
n.a.
n.a.
1986
93
49
4
n.a.
1991
99
72
22
26
1993
99
80
33
29

(a) Includes black and white television sets.

Source: Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics (1994) Statistical summary of the Communications, Entertainment and Information Industries


Endnotes

1 Bell, D. (1974) The coming of post-industrial society: a venture in social forecasting Heinemann.

2 Creative Nation (1994) Government Cultural Policy Statement.

3 Household Use of Information Technology (8128.0).

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