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Longitudinal variability of time-location/activity patterns of population at different ages: a longitudinal study in California

Xiangmei Wu1, Deborah H Bennett1*, Kiyoung Lee2, Diana L Cassady1, Beate Ritz3 and Irva Hertz-Picciotto1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA, USA

2 Graduate School of Public Health and Institute of Health and Environment, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea

3 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Environmental Health 2011, 10:80  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-80

Published: 20 September 2011



Longitudinal time-activity data are important for exposure modeling, since the extent to which short-term time-activity data represent long-term activity patterns is not well understood. This study was designed to evaluate longitudinal variations in human time-activity patterns.


We report on 24-hour recall diaries and questionnaires collected via the internet from 151 parents of young children (mostly under age 55), and from 55 older adults of ages 55 and older, for both a weekday and a weekend day every three months over an 18-month period. Parents also provided data for their children. The self-administrated diary and questionnaire distinguished ~30 frequently visited microenvironments and ~20 activities which we selected to represent opportunities for exposure to toxic environmental compounds. Due to the non-normal distribution of time-location/activity data, we employed generalized linear mixed-distribution mixed-effect models to examine intra- and inter-individual variations. Here we describe variation in the likelihood of and time spent engaging in an activity or being in a microenvironment by age group, day-type (weekday/weekend), season (warm/cool), sex, employment status, and over the follow-up period.


As expected, day-type and season influence time spent in many location and activity categories. Longitudinal changes were also observed, e.g., young children slept less with increasing follow-up, transit time increased, and time spent on working and shopping decreased during the study, possibly related to human physiological changes with age and changes in macro-economic factors such as gas prices and the economic recession.


This study provides valuable new information about time-activity assessed longitudinally in three major age groups and greatly expands our knowledge about intra- and inter-individual variations in time-location/activity patterns. Longitudinal variations beyond weekly and seasonal patterns should be taken into account in simulating long-term time-activity patterns in exposure modeling.

time-activity; web survey; longitudinal variation; intra- and inter-individual variation; exposure assessment