Time is of the essence - and we're happy to pay for it

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The Independent Online

The British consider time to be their most precious resource, more important than either energy or money, according to new research. Many Britons would like more money and want to feel less tired, but would choose to have more time above anything else.

The study by the Henley Centre reveals wide differences between different social groups, however, and between the genders.

Women are more likely than men to feel stressed and more likely to feel exhausted by the end of the day - especially if they are mothers. For women, energy is in far shorter supply than either time or money on a daily basis. However, they are less willing than men to spend money to save themselves time.

People in the bottom DE social group feel less time-squeezed than the most affluent AB group. But the poorest feel more stressed and less in control of the pace of their life than the better off. Richer people feel under increasing pressure at work, and are working longer hours - but they feel more in control of their lives than the least well off.

Michelle Harrison, who leads the public-sector consultancy practice at Henley Centre Headlight Vision, said that although rich and poor alike feel short of energy, the better-off "are busy in a self-perceived important way".

"They are tired because they have been energetically transforming their lives, realising reward for their efforts. They are positively stressed and they have enough money to 'buy back' time as and when they need to," she said.

In contrast, poorer people face less time pressure but feel less in control and demotivated amid the everyday stresses of life.

The research, reported in the Fabian Society think-tank's magazine tomorrow, found that 41 per cent of people think time is their most valuable resource, 27 per cent value energy most, and only 18 per cent believe money is most important.

Dr Harrison said the inequalities in the "consumer currencies" of money, time and energy permeate people's lives in many ways. Wealthier people are more likely to feel a greater sense of belonging and of local community. They are more likely to play sport and dine out but also spend more time "pottering" and sleeping than the poorest.

People in the DE social class are twice as likely as the ABs to be full-time carers because they do not have the money to buy themselves some choice or time.

Dr Harrison concluded that public services need to focus on being "in the right place, at the right time, for the right people". She added: "Many of those who need [enabling state resources] will be too tired to get there themselves."

Twenty-three per cent of ABs said the hours they work had increased, compared to only 9 per cent of DEs. Three in 10 ABs felt under more pressure at work against 13 per cent of DEs, but more ABs (20 per cent) said they got more satisfaction from their work than DEs (9 per cent). More than twice as many ABs (29 per cent) said their incomes had increased than DEs.

Counting every minute

* A third of our lives is spent sleeping. We sleep one to 1.5 hours less than we did a century ago.

* The average Briton spends about 170 minutes a day watching television - in a lifetime, that amounts to around nine years.

* In a lifetime, we spend about three years on the toilet.

* In 2000, adults in the UK spent around 75 minutes a day looking after their children - in 1961 it was just 30 minutes a day.

* The average woman spends an hour and 13 minutes in the kitchen every day - just over four years of her life.

* The average man spends 514 days in the kitchen in his lifetime.