Throughout history, humans have relied on cooperation and social relationships to thrive. Of course, who we spend time with evolves throughout our lifetime.
Adolescence to Adulthood
In the average American’s teenage years, they spend most of their time alone and with their family. This makes sense, as the majority of people under 18 still live in a home with their nuclear family unit, meaning parents and siblings. Not surprisingly, adolescence is also when time spent with friends reaches its peak.
Jumping forward to a person’s early adulthood, 25-year-olds spend an average of 275 minutes per day alone, and 199 minutes with coworkers. This aligns with people in their twenties beginning to enter the workforce.
By age 35, people are still spending the most time with themselves, at 263 minutes per day. However, time spent combined with children and partners, the runner-ups, adds up to 450 minutes or around 7.5 hours a day.
Although people are spending more time with kids and partners as they grow older, this trend may shift, as women are having fewer children. More women today are obtaining an education and are entering the workforce, causing them to delay or entirely put off having children.
Middle to Old Age
Upon turning 45, the average person spends 309 minutes a day alone, and in second place, 199 minutes with children. Time with coworkers remains relatively steady throughout someone’s forties, which coincides with the middle of career for most people in the workforce.
By age 55, time spent alone still takes top spot, but time spent with a partner goes up to 184 minutes, and time with coworkers also moves up, pushing out time spent with children.
Typically, time spent with children during the mid-fifties tends to see a sharp decline as children enter adulthood and begin to move out or spend more time out of the house.
Today, more children are staying at home longer or even moving back home. 52% of adult children in the U.S. today are living with their parents.
As people get closer to old age, around 65-years-old, they spend increasingly less time with coworkers as they begin to retire, and much more time alone or with a spouse. Then, from age 65-75, people consistently spend the most time alone, then with a partner and family.
Alone and Lonely?
One of the most significant trends on the chart is increased time spent alone.
By the time someone reaches 80, their daily minutes alone goes up to 477. This can be a problematic reality. As the population continues to age in many countries around the world, more elderly people are left without resources or social connection.
Additionally, while one quarter of elderly Americans live alone, the trend of solo living is going up across nearly every age group, and this trend applies to a number of mature economies around the world.
A natural conclusion would be that increasing alone time has negative impacts on people, however, being alone does not necessarily equate to loneliness. Our World in Data found that there was no direct correlation between living alone and reported feelings of loneliness.
One final consideration is the role technology plays in our social interactions. Thanks to smartphones and social platforms, time alone doesn’t necessarily equal isolation.
It is not just the amount of time spent with others, but the quality and expectations, that reduce loneliness.