Lack of quality time with loved ones leaves 1 in 3 of us feeling guilty

Not spending enough quality time with family and friends is having a negative impact on our mental health, according to a new report from smart home service provider, Hive.

The report reveals that over half (56%) of the time we spend with our family and friends is not genuine quality time but is in fact wasted – leaving us feeling upset, anxious and embarrassed.

The findings show that on average we spend less than 30 hours a month with our closest friends and family. In fact, we spend just as much time each month getting ready for work  and preparing our food , and over twice as much on social media .

‘Quality time’ – when we give our loved ones our full attention and invest in the interaction – today accounts for less than half (44%) of our time together.

One of the biggest barriers to spending quality time is physical distance. Travelling long distances to see a loved one stops over one in four (26%) of us spending more quality time, while the cost of travel holds back 23% of us from seeing one another more. On average, we live 72 miles apart from our closest family and friends.

When looking at regional trends, those living in Sheffield, Southampton and Belfast spend the least quality time together, averaging just 20 hours per month – while those based in Plymouth, Newcastle and Liverpool enjoy the most – averaging over an hour a day (32 hours per month).

Spending so little quality time with family and friends is having a negative impact on our mental health. Nearly a third (32%) of the UK feeling guilty for spending too much time apart, with more than one in five (22%) feeling upset, and 15% being anxious or worried about too much time apart.

When further examining the feeling of guilt, this is particularly acute for those who care and offer support to a loved one. As many as 8.8 million of us act as unpaid carers , and 36% of those surveyed said they feel guilty when they do not get a chance to visit those they care for. This proportion increases drastically for those aged between 45 and 54 years old, many of whom look after elderly relatives, to 54%.

With each of us often juggling busy lives, our quality time together is also limited by work (for 22% of us), chores (for 14%), and other family commitments (for 12%). The majority of us (60%) want to enjoy more quality time with our closest friends and family.

Technology has become a vital tool for many, helping us to maintain relationships and give us peace of mind by keeping us informed on each other’s lives, even when we’re not together. 

This is particularly true for technologies such as social media, instant messaging, and new smart home apps that can enable families and friends to keep in touch and provide real-time updates. One in five (19%) of us now regularly use these platforms to check up on each other’s welfare, with two fifths (39%) saying technology is “essential” for staying connected to family and friends.

This is particularly true for people living in major UK cities, who may often have more hectic schedules. Over half of those living in cities such as Cardiff (53%), Newcastle (53%) and Bristol (51%) say technology keeps them connected to their loved ones when they are not together.

Claire Miles, Managing Director of Centrica Hive said: “Setting aside real, quality time with those we love is becoming increasingly tough to do, as we try to balance the pressures of modern life. At Hive, we are always looking for innovative ways that technology can make this easier, and help give each of us back precious time for the people we love.

“These findings, launched today in our Quality Time report, show how technology is already playing a much more central role in the way we keep in touch with the people that matter most to us, compared to just five years ago. As we continue to see major socioeconomic shifts in the way we live our lives, it is so exciting to think about the ways in which new technologies can help us get closer to loved ones.

Hive is today launching its Quality Time barometer, which examines how we spend quality time with our loved ones, how we connect with them, how this changed over time and the role technology can play in this both now and going forward.

  • Full Quality Time report

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About the research

To generate the content for this report, Hive conducted two phases of research, comprising of quantitative and qualitative data collection:

  • We conducted a nationwide poll, weighted to properly reflect the range and make-up of families across the UK (i.e. by age, location, ethnicity, gender, etc). The poll surveyed 2,000 adults between 8th and 10th May 2019.
  • We conducted three focus groups, each focused on a different demographic (young single adults; parents; grandparents). All the groups were held in London in May 2019, with all respondents living around London and the South East. The groups were brought to a central London location.