You Spend Less Time Eating Today Than a Decade Ago

Study shows that children and education impact the time people spend noshing.

November 08, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the past 10 years, the amount of time Americans dedicate to eating and drinking as a primary activity has dropped by three minutes per day, according to research funded by the USDA and reported by FoodNavigator-USA.

Research conducted by the Economic Research Service’s Adult Eating & Health Module (EHM) included approximately 36,000 interviews over two three-year spans: 2006 to 2008 and 2014 to 2016. During the more recent period, the average American adults spent about 64.5 minutes per day eating and drinking as a primary activity and about 16.8 minutes eating as a secondary activity, such as snacking and working simultaneously. While secondary eating remained relatively steady, primary eating times had dropped by 5%.

As expected, busier people are the ones rushing through meals. According to the study, parents of young children, particularly single parents, dedicate the least amount of time to having a proper dinner.

Findings also indicate that older people—65-plus—dedicate the most time to eating and drinking at 74.6 minutes per day, and childless couples spend 72.2 minutes eating, which is 10 minutes more than people with kids. Unsurprisingly, single-parent households spent a mere 51.8 minutes eating as a primary activity per day.

One interesting finding is that people with more formal education actually spend more time eating than those with less education—both as a primary activity and a secondary activity. People with at least a master’s degree spend nearly 11 minutes more per day focused on eating and drinking than people who have an undergraduate degree or less.

Meanwhile, the better-educated group also spent nearly three minutes more per day eating as a secondary activity.