Posted on Mar 20, 2013, 6 a.m.
While labor-saving devices such as the dishwasher and vacuum cleaner make quick work of household chores, these same conveniences may be responsible for the rise in obesity, particularly among women.
A longitudinal study assessing 45-year trends in time-use, household management (food preparation, dish-washing, laundry, and general housework) and energy expenditure in women finds that a “decrement in [household management energy expenditures] may have contributed to the increasing prevalence of obesity in women during the last five decades.” Edward Archer, from the University of South Carolina (South Carolina, USA), and colleagues assessed data on time allocation from the American Heritage Time Use Study (AHTUS), involving 55,000 women, ranging in age from 19–65 years. The team assessed how women spent their time – paid work, household management (unpaid housework and family care), personal care, and free time (such as watching television or exercise). To indicate incremental increases in body weight, Archer and colleagues relied on data from the National Health Examination Survey I and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The researchers found that: non-employed women spent 33 hours a week on household maintenance in 1965, but only 16.5 hours in 2010; the number of calories used in household management activities dropped by more than 2,500 per week for non-employed women -- from about 6,000 per week in 1965 to 3,486 in 2010, and from 3,106 in 1960 to 2,182 in 2010 among employed women; the average time women spent using screen-based media doubled between 1965 and 2010, from 8.3 hours to 16.5 in 2010; and leisure-time physical activity increased from 1.1 hours per week in 1965 to 2.7 hours in the 1980s, but fell to 2.3 hours in 2010. Writing that: “From 1965 to 2010, there was a large and significant decrease in the time allocated to [household management],” the study authors observe that: “ The reallocation of time from active pursuits (i.e., housework) to sedentary pastimes (e.g., watching TV) has important health consequences.”
Archer E, Shook RP, Thomas DM, Church TS, Katzmarzyk PT, Hébert JR, McIver KL, Hand GA, Lavie CJ, Blair SN. “45-Year Trends in Women's Use of Time and Household Management Energy Expenditure.” PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56620; 2013 Feb 20.