The average American spends more time using media such as TV and the internet than sleeping, a study has found.

US researchers found that Americans spend nine hours a day watching TV, using the web or talking on a mobile.

One-third of that time is devoted to using two or more media at once, noted Bob Papper, a Ball State University professor who co-authored the report.

“This is arguably in excess of anything we would have envisaged 10 years ago,” Prof Papper said.

Media mad

The team at Ball State University in Indiana looked at media take-up over 5,000 hours among a small sample of 400 people.

They tracked how consumers used 15 different media and gadgets including television, books, magazines, mobile phones, the internet, instant messaging and e-mail.

Media use was the biggest single activity in each observed day and, the researchers said, was undoubtedly the biggest life activity of all.

Top media activity was still watching TV. But in second place was the time that people spent with their laptop and desktop computers.

“When we combine time spent on the web, using e-mail, instant messaging and software such as word processing, the computer eclipses all other media with the single exception of television,” said Prof Papper.

However, the medium that reaches most people in any given day, 94.6%, was the telephone.

Most people, 56.9%, used media in the home but 21.1% did so at work, 8.3% in the car and 13.7% in other locations.

TV viewing

The study confirms many long-held assumptions about how Americans use the media, including the television set’s dominance in American homes.

Separate figures produced by Nielsen Media Research confirm that American families are watching more TV today than they were a decade ago.

In the 12 months up to September 2005, the average American family viewed eight hours and 11 minutes of TV programming a day, a 2.7% increase from the previous year.

A decade ago, from September 1994-95, average total viewing was seven hours and 15 minutes.

But the Ball State study appears to overturn the cliché that younger people are the heaviest users of the web. It found that 18 to 24-year-olds spend less time online than any other age group, except for the over-65s.

A survey earlier this year by the US Pew Internet and American Life project found that on a typical day in late 2004, 70 million Americans went online, a figure 37% higher than four years previously.

These numbers are set to rise in the future as new networking technologies, such as Wimax and 3G, reach millions more consumers.

Spending on internet advertising is projected to increase in 2006 by anywhere from 12 to 27%, according to US media analysts.

But newspapers, despite circulation concerns and competition from the internet, continue to attract more advertising than any other major media, amounting to $46.7bn (£26.84bn) in 2004.