ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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How do you measure time scarcity?

Jenny Welsh

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 10 - Law Building, Room 105
Date: 2012-07-11 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-19


Research studying the time and health has been preoccupied with conceptualising time as the hours spent in committed and contracted activities or amount of leisure time. The problem with this approach is that everyone has access to 24-hours in their day and a count approach neglects an important component of time: how time is experienced (for example, whether activities are done at a rushed or leisurely pace). The aim of this study was to develop two concurrent measures of time scarcity based on (i) amount of time in contracted and committed activities (ii) the respondents experience of time pressure. Those classed as time scarce on each measure were profiled and each groups' association with health was also examined. Data for this study were taken from Wave 9 of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia (HILDA) Survey (N = 9930), a nationally representative dataset of Australian adults aged 15 years and over. Time was measured using self-report time use estimates spent in contracted and committed activities; two items relating to feeling rushed and pressed for time and satisfaction with free time were used as measures of time pressure. The SF-36 provided measures of physical and mental health. The profile of those who reported high time estimates was clear: this group was more likely to be working (and working long hours) and or have care responsibilities for children. In contrast, the experience of time pressure was more evenly distributed across almost all social groups. There was only a small overlap between the two indexes: not all those who reported high time estimates reported experiencing time pressure; similarly, not all those who reported time pressure reported high time estimates. The two indices also demonstrated different patterns of associations with health. Those who reported being time scarce on their quanta of hours reported small negative or non significant associations with health while those who reported experiencing time pressure reported stronger negative associations with health. These results were consistent after adjusting for household income and removing those with poor physical and mental health. A count approach is an insufficient measure of time scarcity on its own and more attention must be paid to how people think about and experience their time. This method allows for a more nuanced understanding of time and appears to be more strongly associated with health and wellbeing outcomes.