Eating and Health Module (ATUS)
Individual decisions about how to use the 24 hours in a day have short- and long-term implications for income and earnings, health, and other aspects of well-being. Understanding time-use patterns can provide insight into economic behaviors associated with eating patterns, as well as the diet and health status of individuals. Knowing more about eating patterns, grocery shopping, and meal preparation—as well as understanding whether participants in food and nutrition assistance programs face different time constraints than nonparticipants—can inform the design of food and nutrition assistance policies and programs.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) American Time Use Survey (ATUS) provides nationally representative estimates of how, where, and with whom individuals spend their time. ATUS measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing. The data files include information collected from nearly 237,000 interviews, conducted from 2003 to 2022.
USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) worked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (Census Bureau) to create the Eating and Health Module (EHM) as a supplement to the ATUS. The EHM was first fielded in 2006–08, then again in 2014–16, and the latest round in 2022–23. The EHM collects data to analyze the relationships among time-use patterns and eating patterns, nutrition, and obesity; food and nutrition assistance programs; and grocery shopping and meal preparation.
One of the missions of ERS is to enhance the understanding of economic issues related to the nutrition and health of the U.S. population. Data collection and research on eating patterns, Body Mass Index (BMI), food and nutrition assistance program participation, income eligibility for program participation, grocery shopping, and meal preparation all contribute to this goal. Specifically, the economic analysis of decisions made under constraints—in this case, time—provides insight for both policies and programs because the decisions individuals make on how to use their 24 hours in a day have short- and long-term implications for income and earnings, health, and other aspects of well-being.
The 2022–23 EHM asks ATUS respondents about secondary eating—that is eating while doing another activity considered primary by the respondent—height and weight, physical activity, self-assessed diet quality and health status, USDA food assistance program participation, income, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. Select summary tables are available below and full data from the EHM are available on the BLS website. The 2023 EHM data are expected to be available in fall 2024.
See: Documentation for more information and previous versions.