Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with Simon Chapple, editor of a report released today by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that looked at what people in 18 nations do with their time - and how much of it is spent on leisure activities.
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LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins, and this is The World. We Americans often think of ourselves as people on the run. You know, too much to do, not enough time to do it in, and barely time for fun. Well, sometimes it's good to put such things into a more global perspective. That's what the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, set out to do. It conducted surveys in 18 nations to find out what people do with their time and how much of it they devote to leisure activities. Simon Chappele has been poring over the results, as editor of the OECD's report called â€œSociety at a Glanceâ€.
SIMON CHAPPELE: Much to my surprise, I found out that the French actually sleep most â€“ 12 minutes more than the Americans, who are the second highest.
MULLINS: But Americans are the second highest in getting the most sleep?
MULLINS: That is surprising. How much do we allegedly get?
CHAPPELE: The Americans allegedly get close to 520 minutes a night. Clearly, some Americans are getting a lot more than others.
MULLINS: All right. So break that down into hours for us.
CHAPPELE: 520 minutes is 8 hours and 40 minutes.
MULLINS: I just don't believe it.
CHAPPELE: Hand on heart, this is a real reliable survey.
MULLINS: And the fact that the French get so much, I guess it depends on what you're doing when you're â€“ well â€“ anyway. Okay. So about other leisure trends â€“
MULLINS: Who has the most â€“ along the same lines, who has the most fun?
CHAPPELE: The best dotter that tells us that in the OECD is the dotter on life satisfaction. How satisfied are people with their lives overall? And we find the Nordics up there â€“ the Danes, the Norwegians, the Swedes.
MULLINS: Is that because of all the social benefits that they have in many Scandinavian countries?
CHAPPELE: That's one hypothesis. The other hypothesis is that blondes have more fun â€“ and there's more blondes there.
MULLINS: And so for those who have the least amount of fun, disregarding hair color?
CHAPPELE: In the OECD, at the other end of the spectrum, we've got Turkey, which is a comparatively low-income OECD country, and interestingly enough, the Italians.
MULLINS: That they don't have fun?
CHAPPELE: No. They're very comparatively dissatisfied with their lives.
MULLINS: Did they say what they're dissatisfied about?
CHAPPELE: The evidence suggests that societies which have comparatively low levels of trust, often in strangers, are societies which tend to be least satisfied. And the Nordic countries have a lot of â€“ very high levels of trust in strangers, and Italy very, very low. And obviously, there are sort of deep historic roots for those sorts of attitudes.
MULLINS: Where do Americans fit in on that scale?
CHAPPELE: Americans are slightly happier than the OECD average. But what's most interesting about the satisfaction that Americans have with their lives is that they're quite extreme. They fit in above the average, but they have a very high number of people with low levels of satisfaction and a very high number of people with high levels of satisfaction, compared to almost all other OECD countries.
MULLINS: Well, you say Americans are slightly happier. They're also slightly hippier?
CHAPPELE: Not slightly, I'm afraid. Americans are most likely to be obese â€“ more than one in every three Americans. And at the other end, you know, the Japanese, you know, 1 in 20, 1 in 10.
MULLINS: One in 10 who are obese? The Japanese?
CHAPPELE: The Koreans are slim as well. And that ties in together with some of the other data on time spent eating and drinking. What also fascinated me was that France is a country which spends the most time sitting down at the table with a glass of wine and a good meal, but they are amongst the slimmest of this group.
MULLINS: Which is patently unfair.
CHAPPELE: Whereas, the United States at the other end of the spectrum, they spend about an hour less a day eating than the French, but are much, much more likely to be fat. So this tells us something about slow food, I think.
MULLINS: Now, by the way, one other thing. When you come up with this image of the United States as being especially heavy, sleeping a lot, did you consider the fact that the United States is a melting pot, or a â€œsalad bowlâ€ as some people would say, with probably more immigrants I would think, immigrant population than any other country that you studied?
CHAPPELE: Yes, we did. I'm a New Zealander, so I come from an immigrant country as well. And interestingly enough, the United States is not that much different from the OECD average in terms of the foreign-born population. For example, you take Australia, where you've got something like 22 or 23 percent of the population born off shore. New Zealand, where I come from, the data's over 20 percent. The United States down around the 13, 14 percent mark. So in fact, the United States does not stand out in our data as particularly different, in terms of at least the share of people that are born off shore. Now, obviously where those immigrants come from may well be different in the case of the States.
MULLINS: Now, tell me why somebody who is perhaps working for maybe the US government or any other government â€“ how would they use this information?
CHAPPELE: I guess what is says is it shows you what it's possible to achieve. Okay? Now, we could look under my country â€“ it's a country with quite high obesity rates as well. And it's about 20 percent in the case of New Zealand. And then I look at other countries and I say, â€œWell, there are countries out there that society's not that dissimilar from my own, who have managed to achieve much lower, less than half that rate of obesity.â€ So it tells us what's possible. And then you get to ask the question, â€œWell, how is it that the French or the Italians or the Koreans or the Japanese manage to achieve this?â€ And then you start digging deeper and deeper and you start moving yourself towards policy solutions.
MULLINS: One final quick question, Simon. If you could morph yourself into a resident, not of New Zealand but a citizen of one of these other countries instantly based on the survey results, which country would be prime for you?
CHAPPELE; Well, since I live there, I'm highly tempted to say France. But it's probably like most Americans â€“ if they were given the choice to live somewhere else, maybe they'd say Canada. I'll go with my neighbor, Australia.
MULLINS: All right. Thank you very much. Nice to talk to you. Simon Chappele, who's the editor of the Society at a Glance report for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. You can find out more at our website, theworld.org. Thanks, Simon.