Reading top leisure activity for Americans: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Reading tops the list of favorite leisure-time activities, but it does not seem to be as popular among Americans as in previous years.

A new survey by independent research company Harris Interactive showed nearly a quarter of Americans prefer to spend their free time reading, followed by watching television and being with family.

But only 23 percent of the 1,052 people questioned in the telephone poll put reading at the top of their list, compared to 29 percent in 2004.

“If you look at the top three, the heart of what most of us enjoy, it’s nice to see that consistency,” Regina Corso, director of the Harris Poll, said in an interview.

But she added that the big question is what else people are doing in their free time because along with reading, fewer Americans listed watching television as a preferred pastime.

There were no activities that made significant gains in popularity. Spending time on computers, the fourth favorite pastime, and outdoor activities, in 27th spot, increased the most, each by two percent from the previous poll.

More time was not being spent at the office either. The number of hours worked fell to 45 hours per week, its lowest level since 1975.

Corso said that everyday tasks, the things that need to get done, could be a reason.

“Picking up the dry-cleaning -- people don’t consider that work, they don’t consider that leisure, but you have to do that every week. Going to the bank. Taking the kids to soccer practice -- I have a feeling a lot of moms don’t consider that spending time with their kids. They’re commuting them back and forth,” said Corso.

“I think that we’re seeing our time being pulled in so many different directions. We’re not working, we’re not at leisure, but we’re very busy,” she added.