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It's about time: A comparison of Canadian and American time–activity patterns


This study compares two North American time–activity data bases: the National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS) of 9386 interviewees in 1992–1994 in the continental USA with the Canadian Human Activity Pattern Survey (CHAPS) of 2381 interviewees in 1996–1997 in four major Canadian cities. Identical surveys and methodology were used to collect this data: random sample telephone selection within the identified telephone exchanges, computer-assisted telephone interviews, overselection of children and weekends in the 24-h recall diary and the same interviewers. Very similar response rates were obtained: 63% (NHAPS) and 64.5% (CHAPS). Results of comparisons by age within major activity and location groups suggest activity and location patterns are very similar (most differences being less than 1% or 14 min in a 24-h day) with the exception of seasonal differences. Canadians spend less time outdoors in winter and less time indoors in summer than their U.S. counterparts. When exposure assessments use time of year or outdoor/indoor exposure gradients, these differences may result in significant differences in exposure assessments. Otherwise, the 24-h time activity patterns of North Americans are remarkably similar and use of the combined data set for some exposure assessments may be feasible.

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The authors thank the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Dr. J.P. Robinson, one of the main architects of the survey, for graciously allowing us to use their methodology and the NHAPS data. The authors thank Johnny Blair and his team at the Maryland Survey Research Center, and Marc Smith-Doiron for his help with data analysis and presentation.

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Correspondence to JUDITH A LEECH.

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This work was performed while Dr. Leech was under an Interchange Canada agreement between Health Canada and the University of Ottawa, Department of Medicine.

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LEECH, J., NELSON, W., BURNETT, R. et al. It's about time: A comparison of Canadian and American time–activity patterns. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 12, 427–432 (2002).

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  • exposure assessment
  • time–activity pattern

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