Children Playing.

Who do you spend most of your time with? The answer might surprise you

Who the average American spends his or her time with might surprise you — especially in the later stages of life.

Children Playing.

Image credits Dean Moriarty.

How do you slice up your day, and who gets the largest bite? “Friends and loved ones” are probably the immediate answer most people would give — but that may not be the case, especially for Americans. Thankfully, data scientist Henrik Lindberg also asked himself the same question and with the tools of his trade set out to find the answer.

Using data from the 2003 to 2015 annual census carried out by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lindberg crunched the numbers on how the average American spends his time. His work is undeniably illuminating, but us mere mortals likely find raw figures less palatable than data scientists, so Quartz’s Dan Kopf saved the day by breaking down the findings into a sleek series of charts dealing with six main social circles: friends, family, coworkers, romantic partners, children, and finally, ourselves.

The fact that parents take up the lion’s share of time during our childhood doesn’t come as much of a surprise, nor does the fact that it tends to decrease as we age and leave the nest. Around our 20s, this time increasingly goes towards nurturing friendships, spent with our coworkers, spent in the more pleasant company of our romantic partners.

These last two groups — coworkers and partners — will remain a constant theme throughout our lives. The time spent with our won children makes a roaring debut, plateaus around 50 and then steadily declines. But sometime in our teens, one person makes an appearance in our timetable that will steadily rise to prominence as the one we share companionship with the most, especially after the age of 50 when the young’uns grow up — ourselves.

So does your grandma have a point that you never call? Maybe. But at the same time, older people actually report feeling less stressed and overall higher levels of happiness than people in their 20s. They’re also more emotionally mature, so they can just shrug off stressors which 20-somethings would consider a death-sentence. In other words, while they spend more time by themselves, they’re much better suited to do so and even enjoy it. Being alone isn’t the same as being lonely.

Provided we work to become someone who’ll be good company in our golden years.

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