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Adults ‘spending less time gardening and reading’ than at start of pandemic

The amount of time devoted to travelling and socialising has jumped.

Gardening, DIY and sorting the bins are among the activities adults are spending less time doing now than in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures suggest.

Reading, jogging and playing computer games have also seen a drop in popularity, while time spent drinking and washing or grooming has increased.

Other changes reflect the sharp difference between the locked-down society of spring 2020 and the restriction-free UK of today, with a jump in the amount of time devoted to travelling and socialising.

The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has used surveys to track the amount of time adults spend on activities since the start of the pandemic.

The latest survey suggests there has been a “significant fall” in the average daily time spent on entertainment and other free-time activities between March 2020 and March 2023, along with “significant increases” in travel and working away from home.

Adults spent an estimated 39 minutes a day on DIY or gardening at the start of the pandemic, but now spend just 10 minutes.

Time spent cleaning the house, tidying and sorting the bins has dropped from 37 minutes a day to 30.

Other activities to see a fall include reading books, magazines or newspapers (down from 27 minutes a day to 18); playing games or computer gaming (from 22 minutes to 15); and hobbies or other leisure activities (from 14 minutes to 10).

The average amount of time devoted to exercise, sport and wellbeing stood at an estimated 20 minutes a day in March 2020, but had jumped to 30 minutes by March 2021, perhaps reflecting a growth in interest in these activities during the first year of the pandemic.

However, by March 2023 this figure had returned to 20 minutes.

In spring 2021 adults spent an average of 19 minutes a day going for a walk as exercise – but two years on the figure has more than halved to eight minutes.

By contrast, time spent on washing, dressing or self-grooming is now estimated to be 53 minutes a day, compared with 46 minutes in March 2020.

Activities that have also seen an increase include drinking (up from 13 minutes a day to 16) and buying something or shopping (up from 14 minutes to 18 – though this is down from 23 minutes in March 2022).

Some of the biggest jumps have been for socialising or spending time with others, up from an average of eight minutes a day to 33, and travelling, up from 17 minutes to 61.

When it comes to two of the most fundamental activities of everyday life – sleeping and working – the figures suggest adults have cut back on time spent under the covers.

The average amount of sleep per day has fallen from eight hours and 53 minutes in March 2020 to eight hours and 37 minutes.

Meanwhile, more time is being spent working away from home, up from one hour and 36 minutes to two hours and seven minutes.

– All figures are based on responses collected from adults aged 18 and over in Great Britain (for March 2020 and 2021) and the UK (March 2022 and 2023).

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