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Time use choices and healthy body weight: A multivariate analysis of data from the American Time use Survey

Cathleen D Zick1*, Robert B Stevens1 and W Keith Bryant2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family and Consumer Studies, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

2 Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:84  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-84

Published: 2 August 2011



We examine the relationship between time use choices and healthy body weight as measured by survey respondents' body mass index (BMI). Using data from the 2006 and 2007 American Time Use Surveys, we expand upon earlier research by including more detailed measures of time spent eating as well as measures of physical activity time and sedentary time. We also estimate three alternative models that relate time use to BMI.


Our results suggest that time use and BMI are simultaneously determined. The preferred empirical model reveals evidence of an inverse relationship between time spent eating and BMI for women and men. In contrast, time spent drinking beverages while simultaneously doing other things and time spent watching television/videos are positively linked to BMI. For women only, time spent in food preparation and clean-up is inversely related to BMI while for men only, time spent sleeping is inversely related to BMI. Models that include grocery prices, opportunity costs of time, and nonwage income reveal that as these economic variables increase, BMI declines.


In this large, nationally representative data set, our analyses that correct for time use endogeneity reveal that the Americans' time use decisions have implications for their BMI. The analyses suggest that both eating time and context (i.e., while doing other tasks simultaneously) matters as does time spent in food preparation, and time spent in sedentary activities. Reduced form models suggest that shifts in grocery prices, opportunity costs of time, and nonwage income may be contributing to alterations in time use patterns and food choices that have implications for BMI.

Body mass index; time use; time spent eating; physical (in)activity time; wage rates; and grocery prices