Socio-Demographic Aspects of Leisure Activities

The importance of leisure research was briefly summarized by us in a previous article: "Why the attention to research of leisure activities?  Above all, in a capitalistic society, people are alienated from their work.  Apart from obtaining wages in exchange for labor, most people have no further commitment and attachment to their work.  The wages allow the workers to obtain food and shelter, and then to seek relief and relaxation through the pursuit of leisure activities.  In this regard, the research of leisure activities contributes to the understanding of worker motivation and may ultimately lead to improvement in worker productivity through better leisure opportunities.  A more utopian goal might be the fusion/integration of work and leisure."

According to Joffre Dumazedier, "Leisure is activity -- apart from the obligations of work, family and society -- to which the individual turns at will, for either relaxation, diversion or broadening his knowledge and his spontaneous social participation, the free exercise of his creative capacity."  The keywords are therefore: relaxation, diversion, knowledge and socialization.

We will now cite some survey data from the 2002 MARS (Multimedia Audience Research Systems) study.  This is a mail survey of 22,097 adults in the 50 states of the USA conducted during the first quarter of 2002.  Within this survey, respondents were shown a list of leisure activities and asked to check those that they have participated in during the past 12 months.  Here is a subset of that list, behind which we list the associated keywords: adult education, aerobics, bicycling, billiards/pool, bird watching, ceramics/pottery, cooking for fun, dancing, gardening, going to bars, going to concerts/theaters, going to museums, going to zoos, hunting, needlework/knitting/quilting, photography, playing musical instruments and reading books.  This list should not be taken as an exhaustive enumeration, or even anything remotely close.  After all, watching television is probably the most important leisure activity, but it is a pointless comparison in this context because the question "watched television in the last 12 months?" would have nearly 100% affirmation.

There are many obvious ways to characterize these leisure activities --- indoor versus outdoor, physical versus mental, personal versus social, private versus public, free versus expensive and so on.  These multidimensional aspects imply that the choice of specific leisure activities would reflect the preferences, needs and benefits.  In the following chart, we have listed the participation rates in these leisure activities in descending order.

(data source: Multimedia Audience Research Systems 2002)

In the next chart, we show the data for women.  Here, we have computed an index, which is defined 100 times the participation rate among women divided by the participation rate among all adults.  An index of 100 means that women participate at the same rate as the total population.  An index of greater than 100 means that women participate at higher rates than the total population, and vice versa.  We have shown age/sex data for leisure activities in a different format  in our previous article, and it is unsurprising that traditionally female activities such as needlework would rank high among women and traditionally male activities such as hunting would rank low among women.

(data source: Multimedia Audience Research Systems 2002)

Next, we look at the top education category of those who either have done post-graduate study or obtained post-graduate degrees (such as masters and doctorates).   The top four activities are all cultural or educational in nature.

(data source: Multimedia Audience Research Systems 2002)

 Finally, we look at the top income bracket of persons with household income $250,000 or more.  With plenty of disposable of income in hand, there appears to be no urge to stay home and whittle away the time with needlework and knitting.

(data source: Multimedia Audience Research Systems 2002)

 (posted by Roland Soong, 01/12/2003)

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