The “Indoor Generation”: How did we get here?


Time flies when you’re having a good time. So whether you’re having game nights with friends, cocktails at the pub with colleagues, or watching T.V. with the family, it’s easy to lose track of how much time you’re spending inside.

What does your usual day look like?

For most, we wake up under a roof, commute to work under a roof, work under a roof, commute back home under a roof and spend the rest of our nights … well … under a roof.

Enclosed spaces have become a norm for people. One particular study done in 2001 through multiple methods such as telephone interviews showed that Americans spend nearly 90% of their time indoors.

How did we get here?

Since our time as hunters and gatherers, when we would wake up with the sun and spend the whole day outside, we have evolved. From the industrial revolution, to the focus on convenience — modern lifestyles and conveniences have made it easy to spend the whole day indoors without even noticing it.

The transition from manual work to knowledge work, has led to an increase in desk jobs. From the 1800s to 2000 the American workforce has transitioned from 90% of all jobs being outdoors to only 20%. The most time we now get outside throughout the week is during the commute to and from work and/or school.

With the growth of technology and shift from farming to desk jobs, social norms have changed all over the world to meet comfort and convenience needs, and in turn — created an “indoor generation”.

Rather than tuning in for a 60 minute episode of your favorite TV show, you can now “binge watch” entire seasons — turning a one-hour activity into several hours.

Surveys have shown that, on average, people over the age of 15 spend approximately 2.4 hours on an average day watching TV or over an hour on the computer, with less than an hour dedicated to exercise or sports recreation. The number of hours spent watching TV is even higher for people over the age of 75.

Shopping has also seen convenient upgrades. For many people, a trip to the store or farmer’s market has now been replaced by online shopping from the comfort of your home. With services such as free two-day shipping, and the option for groceries and fresh ingredient boxes to be delivered to your doorstep, necessities and luxuries can be delivered to you with just the click of a button, or even the sound of your voice.

How does the U.S. compare to other countries?

While children in the U.S. spend more time indoors than those in some other countries such as Sweden, the global statistics can be staggering. One out of two kids worldwide spend less time outside than prisoners at a maximum-security prison in the U.S.

With such a high percentage of time spent indoors, it’s crucial that everyone understands the impact of indoor spaces on our health and well-being. Factors such as indoor air quality and lighting are being studied by the Well Living Lab so that people can have the potential to breathe in cleaner air and use circadian lighting to help us focus during the day and sleep better at night.

Because we’re an indoor generation, it is more critical than ever to understand how indoor environments affect our health, which makes this new area of study increasingly significant.