April 2, 2007 — The University of Utah Honors Think Tank on Pace of Life will be holding a public fair at the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday, April 14, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public and will include games and activities for the entire family.
The fair, titled “What’s the Rush?” will address the causes and effects of a fast-paced lifestyle on individuals’ personal health, work, and family through discussions among panels of experts and information provided by area non-profit organizations.
John de Graaf, co-producer of the documentary “Affluenza” and editor of the book Take Back Your Time, will deliver the keynote address, “America’s Time Famine.” De Graaf works as a producer with KCTS Public Television in Seattle.
Americans are experiencing ever greater demands on their time. The busy schedules that individuals, including children, attempt to maintain have serious consequences. These burdens come primarily from work schedules, but also are the result of increasing emphasis on convenience, and the over-scheduling of children and adults.
According to de Graaf’s book, Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America, America is one of the hardest working nations in the world. Currently, nearly one in five American workers spends more than 50 hours per week at work, according to de Graaf’s research. But America’s overzealous work ethic may be negatively affecting lives outside the workplace.
Working too much can negatively affect personal health. Men who take regular vacations reduce their risk of having a heart attack by 30 percent. Women who take frequent vacations reduce the risk of death from heart disease. Nearly 26 percent of Americans never take a vacation from their work. Other health problems resulting from time scarcity include poor nutrition due to eating fast food and increased levels of stress.
In addition, over-scheduling can also have a negative effect on children. Since the 1970’s, children have lost 12 hours per week in free time, including a 25 percent drop in play overall, according to a national survey by the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center. The Research Center also found that students spend eight hours more a week in school than kids did 20 years ago, and homework time has nearly doubled.
The National Sleep Foundation claims that students need nine hours of sleep to be completely energized and ready for school. Currently, only 15 percent of adolescents get the sleep they need. Typically, teenagers only get between 7 and 7½ hours of sleep per night. Up to 25 percent of children now suffer from sleep problems, according to the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Over-scheduling has limited the amount of free-time that individuals could spend cultivating personal relationships and engaging in spontaneous leisure activities. This is leading to added stress in personal relationships and a general decline in membership in civic clubs and recreational organizations.
Families are also spending less time together. A Gallup poll in 2004 showed that only 28 percent of American families with children eat together seven nights a week, a 10 percent drop from three years ago. A study in 2004 by the University of Minnesota found that teens who ate five or six meals a week with their families were 7 to 24 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes or marijuana, drink alcohol, get lower grades, or show signs of depression. The more meals the teens ate with families, the less likely they were to have these problems.
Time scarcity also prevents civic action. According to the 2004 census, nearly 20 percent of registered voters who did not vote said that they were “too busy” to do so.
For more information on the fair including a schedule of events please visit www.pacefair.org.
About the Honors Think Tank on Pace of Life
The Honors Think Tank on Pace of Life is a year-long course offered through the University of Utah’s Honors program. The group consists of 11 students selected from the program and two faculty advisors. The fair is the culmination of two semesters of research on issues related to the quality of life and specifically to pace of life and time scarcity. John de Graaf’s visit is sponsored by the Honors College, the Council of Dee Fellows, and the College of Humanities.