How much time do adults spend on health-related self-care? Results from the American time use survey

Daniel E. Jonas, Yoko Ibuka, Louise B. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The amount of time individuals spend on health-related self-care is not known. Objective: The aim of this study was to describe how much time American adults reported spending on health-related self-care (eg, taking insulin, dressing a wound). Methods: We analyzed data from the first 5 years, 2003 to 2007, of the population-based American Time Use Survey. Of 64,310 respondents 25 years of age and older, 4267 reported 7022 episodes of health-related self-care on their survey day. We used descriptive statistics, weighted to represent US adults, to describe self-reported time and logit regressions to analyze the odds of engaging in self-care as a function of age, sex, race, and other characteristics. Because health status was collected only in 2006 to 2007, analyses were conducted separately for 2003 to 2007 and 2006 to 2007. Results: Of Americans 25 years of age and older, 6.6% engaged in health-related self-care each day. Among those reporting self-care, mean time reported was 90 minutes (median, 15 minutes); 20.6% reported 2 hours or more. Regressions for 2006 to 2007 show that people aged 75 or older were 3.9 times as likely (95% CI, 2.7-5.8) to report self-care as persons aged 25 to 44. Compared with persons in excellent health, those in fair health were 2.0 times as likely (95% CI, 1.4-2.8) and those in poor health were 3.7 times as likely (95% CI, 2.5-5.6) to report engaging in self-care. Nonworking disabled persons reported self-care 4 times (95% CI, 3.1-5.3) as often as employed persons. Sex, race/ethnicity, presence of children, and body mass index were also significant. Conclusions: Time spent on health-related self-care is disproportionately distributed across the population, with a larger amount of time reported by those in poor health (3.6 hours/week) and the nonworking disabled (3.2 hours/week). To provide patient-centered care and to promote optimal decisions about health-related time management when making recommendations for additional self-care tasks, clinicians need to talk to patients about how much time they are already spending on self-care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-390
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Patient time
  • Self-care
  • Time
  • Time factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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