Friday, 13 February 2009

Time use, food preparation, and risk of overweight

USDA's Economic Research Service has just posted 2007 results from the special module on eating and health in the American Time Use Survey (ATUS).

I frequently hear questions about time use and food policy. For example, many people wonder if the high cost of healthy food prevents Americans from choosing good diets. On reflection, many healthy and affordable food options are mixed in with the junk on the market. Next, many people wonder if some combination of price and the time burden of buying and preparing healthy food is to blame.

So, let's turn to the facts.

Here is my graphic based on Table 6 of the 2007 results on the ERS website. I left out the activities for sleeping, working, and eating and drinking as secondary activities while doing something else as a primary activity. You can follow the link for the table to confirm that the omissions just simplify the picture without cherry-picking. The graphic shows the number of minutes spent in several activities, for adults, computed separately according to the responding adult's weight status based on self-reported weight and height.

The questions are: (a) is it true that lack of shopping time and food preparation time are preventing us from eating healthy? (b) what time use activity is most noticeably and systematically associated with weight status?

In short: (c) what is the elephant in the room when it comes to time use?

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