Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Wednesday, 31 December 2008

UK housewives rule in online time

Surfing in China (AP)
The Chinese narrowly lost out to UK housewives for free time spent online

A survey of more than 27,000 web users in 16 countries has shown that the Chinese spend the largest fraction of their leisure time online.

However, UK housewives spend even more than China's average - 47%.

Germans are the most likely to meet someone in real life that they first met online; more than three quarters have done so.

The study also found that the UK is the least trusting of information in its newspapers among the 16 countries.

How much leisure time do you spend on the internet?
Country %
Source: TNS
China 44
South Korea 40
Japan 38
Italy 31
US 30
Australia 29
Spain 29
Canada 28
UK 28
France 28
Germany 23
Norway 22
Netherlands 19
Sweden 18
Finland 16
Denmark 15

The study was conducted by global market information group TNS, which asked 27,522 people aged between 18 and 55 to answer questions about their web use and compared respondents' faith in traditional versus online media.

The average respondent in China spends 44% of their leisure time online, nearly three times the amount of the average Danish respondent.

On average across all countries, under-25s spend 36% of their leisure time online; in China, under-25s claim they spend 50%.

In the UK, a breakdown by occupation shows striking differences in the responses; students spend 39%, more than the unemployed (32%) but still far less than housewives.

Face time

And as for online socialising? On average across all countries, respondents had 17 online friends.

However, when asked the question "Have you ever arranged to meet in person people who you've met through the internet?", Germans came out on top with a whopping 76% saying yes.

The Chinese were at the bottom of the 16-strong list, at 40% - still a reasonable fraction reporting they had crossed from online life into real life.

Have you met in person with someone you first met online?
Country % yes
Source: TNS
Germany 76
France 75
Sweden 75
Denmark 74
Norway 73
Finland 69
Canada 66
Spain 66
Italy 65
Australia 64
Japan 64
UK 58
Netherlands 57
South Korea 56
US 56
China 40

"What comes out in this survey is that we are actively engaging with people online, but we haven't lost the knack for conventional social contact," said Arno Hummerston, managing director of TNS.

"At the same time, online acquaintances are now perceived by most of us as real acquaintances."

The average across all countries was 60% having met online friends face-to-face; the UK was just below that figure at 58%.

A further part of the study comparing online and traditional media and information sources showed national differences.

In the UK, online news sites are second only to friends as the primary source of trusted information; two fifths said they considered online news a "highly trusted" medium.

The UK was markedly less trusting of print media, with only 23% counting newspapers as highly trusted - roughly the same fraction who considered the Wikipedia site as highly trusted. At the top were Finnish respondents, who were some three times more likely - 69% - to describe their newspapers as such.

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