Context: Relationships between socio-environmental factors and obesity are poorly understood due to a dearth of longitudinal population-level research. The objective of this analysis was to examine 45-year trends in time-use, household management (HM) and energy expenditure in women.
Design and participants: Using national time-use data from women 19-64 years of age, we quantified time allocation and household management energy expenditure (HMEE) from 1965 to 2010. HM was defined as the sum of time spent in food preparation, post-meal cleaning activities (e.g., dish-washing), clothing maintenance (e.g., laundry), and general housework. HMEE was calculated using body weights from national surveys and metabolic equivalents.
Results: The time allocated to HM by women (19-64 yrs) decreased from 25.7 hr/week in 1965 to 13.3 hr/week in 2010 (P<0.001), with non-employed women decreasing by 16.6 hr/week and employed women by 6.7 hr/week (P<0.001). HMEE for non-employed women decreased 42% from 25.1 Mj/week (6004 kilocalories per week) in 1965 to 14.6 Mj/week (3486 kcal/week) in 2010, a decrement of 10.5 Mj/week or 1.5 Mj/day (2518 kcal/week; 360 kcal/day) (P<0.001), whereas employed women demonstrated a 30% decrement of 3.9 Mj/week, 0.55 Mj/day (923 kcal/week, 132 kcal/day) (P<0.001). The time women spent in screen-based media use increased from 8.3 hr/week in 1965 to 16.5 hr/week in 2010 (P<0.001), with non-employed women increasing 9.6 hr/week and employed women 7.5 hr/week (P<0.001).
Conclusions: From 1965 to 2010, there was a large and significant decrease in the time allocated to HM. By 2010, women allocated 25% more time to screen-based media use than HM (i.e., cooking, cleaning, and laundry combined). The reallocation of time from active pursuits (i.e., housework) to sedentary pastimes (e.g., watching TV) has important health consequences. These results suggest that the decrement in HMEE may have contributed to the increasing prevalence of obesity in women during the last five decades.