The wealthy, smart and female world of the 'culture vultures'

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The public image of the arts aficionado as a middle-aged, middle-class white man has been exposed as a myth by a government survey of how we spend our time.

The typical "culture vulture" turns out to be a woman. She is not linked to any specific age group or ethnic background, but she is well-off, probably single or divorced, from a high socio-economic group and with a university degree. She is most likely to live in London, own her own home and take in a wide range of cultural and sporting activities, according to the Time Use Survey published by National Statistics yesterday.

The results came from a survey based on interviews with 6,500 households and on diaries filled in by some 12,000 people.

Although most of the findings were hardly surprising, some did challenge commonly held beliefs. While couples with children under five got less sleep than childless adults, mothers with children got exactly the same amount of sleep as those without.

Statisticians said this could be linked to the fact that sleep-deprived mums managed to make up for lost sleep during the day or that young women were happy to party into the small hours of the night.

The average adult spends more than half of their time sleeping, eating or watching television – leading National Statistics to dub the UK as a nation of Royle families living the lifestyle of the hit TV sitcom.

The serious point of the exercise was to find out how much unpaid work households did and to put a value on it. The headline figure was that household chores were worth almost £700bn a year – more than three-quarters the size of the annual output of the official paid-for economy at more than £1,000bn. Women carry out more of the household chores than men, but the male in the household takes on more of the gardening and DIY duties.