On a daily basis, the Earth’s population of approximately 8 billion human beings collectively encounters 190 billion distinct hours of human existence. A recent study conducted by researchers at McGill University involved analyzing extensive data to outline the typical human day.
Through the creation of this human chronome, the researchers aim to enhance our understanding and enable more informed choices regarding the utilization of our shared time.
Each person undergoes his or her day in their own unique way
With around 8 billion people inhabiting the planet, each person undergoes the 24-hour cycle of a day in their own unique way. This amounts to a staggering 190 billion individual hours of human life lived during each rotation of the Earth.
Although we have a general understanding of how we personally spend our time, the activities of other individuals, whether they are our neighbors or people residing in distant nations, can often remain enigmatic.
Do they watch an equivalent amount of television? Work a comparable number of hours? Engage with their smartphones as frequently? Cook meals with similar frequency? Dedicate as much time to parenting? In essence, we may wonder:
What constitutes the daily routine of the average human?
According to recent findings, the average human sleeps for approximately 9 hours and spends around 2.6 hours engaged in work activities.
In a groundbreaking study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from McGill University undertook a momentous task of addressing this inquiry. They gathered extensive data from 145 countries spanning the years 2000 to 2019.
This encompassed time use surveys, national employment and working time statistics, as well as international records of youth education and employment.
Through this remarkable endeavor, the researchers unveiled what they referred to as the ‘global human day’, presenting a comprehensive estimation of human activities, averaged over time and across the entire population.
So, how does this global human day unfold?
First and foremost, the average person dedicates approximately 9.1 hours to sleep or rest. While this may seem substantial, it’s important to consider that the study encompasses data from individuals as young as newborns, who naturally require ample sleep.
During their waking hours, the average individual spends nearly one-third of their day engaging in passive, interactive, and social activities. These activities, totaling approximately 4.6 hours, encompass a wide range of pursuits such as reading, watching TV, creating art, playing games, attending social gatherings with friends or family, or simply allowing oneself moments of idleness.
Additionally, around 2.5 hours are dedicated to eating and food preparation, ensuring our nourishment. Hygiene practices, including grooming, washing, and dressing, take up approximately 1.1 hours of the day. Furthermore, maintaining cleanliness and order in our living spaces requires approximately 0.8 hours of our daily routine.
Employment constitutes a relatively small portion of time
When considering the global human day, it becomes evident that employment, although often demanding for individuals, constitutes a relatively small portion of time—only 2.6 hours. Similarly, education occupies a modest 1.1 hours.
Surprisingly, the process of crafting goods, constructing homes and infrastructure, and sourcing necessary materials accounts for a mere 0.8 hours. Reflect on this: The creation of our homes, belongings, and the cities we inhabit requires just 3% of our collective time.
The researchers also delved into the variations in average human time use based on wealth, revealing striking disparities. Individuals in the highest-income countries spend approximately 1.5 more hours per day than those in the lowest-income countries on experiences such as meals, physical recreation, and leisure activities in general.
Moreover, individuals in the wealthiest countries dedicate a mere five minutes per day to growing and harvesting food, while those in the poorest countries spend well over an hour engaged in such activities.
But the researchers found a lot of commonalities, too. Across the world, we all tend to spend about the same amount of time eating, preparing food, transporting ourselves, and grooming and washing.
The ambitious Human Chronome Project
This extensive analysis marks a significant milestone as the inaugural data of the Human Chronome Project, an ambitious endeavor aimed at constructing a comprehensive database of global human activities. Through the creation of the human chronome, researchers believe that we can draw comparisons to civilizations of the past.
Moreover, it enables us to gain a broad, empirical understanding of the activities undertaken by our species on this planet. Armed with this knowledge, we can make informed decisions regarding the reallocation of our collective time to drive positive changes in both the world and society at large.
The researchers emphasized the importance of comprehending the functioning of the global human system in order to navigate planetary boundaries sustainably, adapt to rapid technological advancements like artificial intelligence, and accomplish global development objectives.
Time, as the saying goes, is the currency of life. In a world interconnected on a global scale, it is imperative to possess a comprehensive understanding of how this currency is spent by 8 billion human beings every day.