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Where did the year go? A look at how Australia spent its time in 2016

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, October 2015 to September 2016. Sample = 50,634 Australians 14+

There are almost 20 million Australians aged 14+, who each had 8,784 hours to spend this year—at work, at play, alone and with others, at home, and out and about. Roy Morgan’s Single Source research of employment, media, leisure activities and travel breaks down how the nation spent its total 173 billion hours in 2016. 

In the past year, Australians spent more time overall watching television than working. We watched 18.7 billion hours of TV, compared with a cumulative 17.7 billion hours at work – each over 10% of the country’s time. Of course, that’s not to say we all spent more time in front of the telly than at a job: in a normal week, 93% of Australians watch TV (and so average 1,023 hours each of viewing over the full year), while 59% of us have jobs (averaging 1,511 hours per employee).

Listening to radio also took up a lot of time: 15.1 billion hours in the past 12 months. 87% of people tune in to radio during the week, listening to an average of 881 hours over the year.

At home, our online time added up to 13.6 billion hours – plus another 6.2 billion hours spent actively online at work, school, and everywhere else. All up, the 94% of Australians who go online during the week have spent an average 1,068 hours using the internet in 2016.  

National time spent with work and media

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, October 2015 to September 2016. Sample = 50,634 Australians 14+

Newspapers scored 2.1 billion hours of national attention over the year, with magazines claiming just shy of a billion hours overall.

So what else have we done with our time? Well, Australians went out for food and drink over 1.25 billion times at cafés, restaurants, fast food outlets and pubs – or around 64 times each by every Aussie man, woman and teen (14+).

853 million times this year, an Australian played a sport or did some formal exercise – slightly more than the 846 million times that someone either visited family and friends, or had them over to theirs. The next most common activity, with 661 million individual occasions nationally over the year, was playing video, computer or board games at home.

And we do go outside sometimes too! Australians took a combined 189 million trips to the beach, 124 million to nightclubs, casinos, race tracks and clubs, 95 million to the cinema, 75 million to art galleries, museums, exhibitions and historical buildings, 50 million to the theatre, ballet, opera, and concerts, 44 million to play the pokies, 34 million to professional sporting events and 33 million to zoos, theme parks and amusement parks. These leisure outings add up to 644 million, or 33 per person over the year.

Cumulative number of sporting, social and leisure activities

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, October 2015 to September 2016. Sample = 50,634 Australians 14+

The final piece of the puzzle is travel. Australians together took 52 million holidays during the year (over 2.5 each on average, although around three in 10 of us didn’t take any trip).  

With an average of eight nights away each time, we spent 417 million of our total 7.2 billion available nights on holidays (or 6% of our collective year).

So did Australia have a good 2016? 10% of the country’s year was work, 33% was media use, 6% was holidays, and we still squeezed in 4.25 billion sporting, social, food and leisure activities.

Michele Levine, CEO – Roy Morgan Research, says:

“To understand fully what nearly 20 million individual Australians 14+ get up to, it’s often better to zoom in and identify patterns and averages among smaller demographic, geographic and psychographic segments – however sometimes you also need a truly macro view to put everything in perspective.  

“Considered as a whole, Australia spent 11% of 2016 watching television – and only 10% at work. 9% of all time was spent listening to radio, and almost 2% reading newspapers and magazines. If you factor in eight hours’ sleep a night, the country spent a third of its time consuming these traditional media.

“As well as the incidence of frequency of participation in a huge range of leisure activities, Roy Morgan also measures the visitation to different types of retail stores. Our recent State of the Nation report revealed that Australians together made almost 1.5 billion visits to department and discount stores, hardware and homeware stores, clothing and music stores, and newsagents. This makes retail visitation the clear number one most common activity, ahead of going out for food or drinks.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%