Testing Self-Report Time-Use Diaries against Objective Instruments in Real Time

Jonathan Gershuny, Teresa Harms, Aiden Doherty, Emma Thomas, Karen Milton, Paul Kelly, Charlie Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


This study provides a new test of time-use diary methodology, comparing
diaries with a pair of objective criterion measures: wearable cameras and
accelerometers. A volunteer sample of respondents (n = 148) completed conventional self-report paper time-use diaries using the standard UK
Harmonised European Time Use Study (HETUS) instrument. On the diary
day, respondents wore a camera that continuously recorded images of their
activities during waking hours (approximately 1,500–2,000 images/day) and also an accelerometer that tracked their physical activity continuously
throughout the 24-hour period covered by the diary. Of the initial 148 participants recruited, 131 returned usable diary and camera records, of whom
124 also provided a usable whole-day accelerometer record. The comparison of the diary data with the camera and accelerometer records strongly
supports the use of diary methodology at both the aggregate (sample) and
individual levels. It provides evidence that time-use data could be used to
complement physical activity questionnaires for providing population-level
estimates of physical activity. It also implies new opportunities for investigating techniques for calibrating metabolic equivalent of task (MET) attributions to daily activities using large-scale, population-representative time-use
diary studies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
JournalSociological Methodology
Early online date30 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Dec 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences


  • Time-use diary
  • Wearable camera
  • Accelerometer
  • Physical activity
  • Data calibration


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