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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 13:01 GMT
3,500 lbs of chocolate and 400,000 hours of TV
Royle family
Close to average: TV's Royle Family
Government statisticians this week claimed that the UK's most famous family - The Averages - continues to spend more money on leisure than anything else. We ask: Who are Mr and Mrs Average?

The main clues to British averageness come from a regularly updated Department of Trade survey designed to provide manufacturers with information on the shape and habits of consumers.

Corned Beef Key

The survey, called AdultData, involves measuring a huge number of physical characteristics of the British public over a number of years.

Official information on, for example, the size of people's hands or the firmness of their grip - vital for designing bottles and containers - was previously based on 1950s surveys carried out on soldiers.

moustache
Just average: six feet of nasal hair

Much other product design was, apparently, based on prejudice, guesswork or sheer ignorance.

The modern drive to accurately determine British Averageness was prompted in the mid-1990s, in part, by the problem of people hurting their fingers when using corned beef tin-opener keys.

Mr Average
38 years old
Weighs 12st 8lbs and rising
Height: 5'9"
Waist size: 39" and rising
Has 75 friends
Will grow six feet of nasal hair during life
Lives in Swindon
Supports Manchester United
Has already made love (to his wife) 2,000 times but will only do some 850 more times before death at age 74

SOURCE - Department of Trade

Until recently 9,000 people were hospitalised each year after suffering corned beef tin-opener key mishaps.

The survey shows that the average male thumb is 2.62 inches (2.31 inches for a woman) - which is pretty much what you might expect - destroying the myth of Britain as nation of superhuman minute-fingered folk evidently held dear by many in the tinned meat trade.

(There was a similar problem with the Commando-proof bottle tops. 8,000 people a year were ending up in casualty departments after attempting to open them).

AdultData also provides a welter of other facts ranging from the size of the Average male and female backside (quite big and extra big, respectively) to a lot of data related to Armpit Height.

Mrs Average
40 years old
Weighs 10st 7lbs and rising
Height: 5'4"
Waist size: 33" and rising
Has 75 friends
In a lifetime, spends 15 months on the telephone and more than 400,000 hours watching television
Lives in Swindon
Has recently given up smoking
Life expectancy: 79

SOURCE - Department of Trade

Mr and Mrs Average are married. The idea that they have 2.4 children - an absurdity long used to ridicule statisticians - is wrong. They now have 1.8 children.

The Average child and his or her fractional sibling has now left home. The couple has almost a 50/50 chance of getting divorced. The number of single-parent families is increasing. But they are not yet Average - they are merely typical.

TV meals

The Averages have had sex with each other 2,000 times - about 200 times a year during the earlier years of marriage. They can expect the rate to drop to about once a month between the ages of 40 and 70.

The Average Family
Believe in God
Believe they will one day win the National Lottery
House is worth 91,000
Gardening and dancing now more popular than DIY
Each member will walk 13,673 miles in a lifetime

SOURCE - Institute of Management

Right now, what they like doing best of all is eating takeaway food while working through the 400,000 hours of television they will watch in their lives. They also like the odd drink or two. Mr Average drinks the equivalent of about seven pints of beer a week.

They will also eat 3,500lbs of chocolate and 7,300 eggs over a lifetime. These sedentary and unhealthy eating habits mean The Averages will spend six months on the toilet and, in the end, will probably die of heart disease.

The Averages live in Swindon. The Wiltshire town has the population most similar to that of the UK a whole, making it - much to the disgust of some who live there - a paradise for market researchers, focus group gurus and marketing pilot schemes.

Asked how this week's news that Average family leisure spending is has increased would hit Swindon, the town's Chamber of Commerce said: "We are fed up with being phoned up about this all the time," before adding: "We have nothing more to say about this whatsoever." But there are doubts about whether The Averages - despite their frequent outings in the media and the politicians' deep desire to please them - really exist.

Professor Fiona Williams of Leeds University, author of a forthcoming report on family life, says: "What characterises families today is diversity, with lots of different types of parenting arrangements." The idea of an "Average" family, Professor Williams believes, is "nonsense".

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See also:

30 Nov 00 | Business
Leisure boom for UK households
16 Nov 99 | The Economy
Row over the national shopping basket
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