The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday released a study that examined years of data to reach the conclusion that people buy fast food because it's faster, and they want to save time.
That conclusion was quickly summarized near the top of the 52-page study: "Americans purchase fast food to save time."
The study was conducted by USDA's Economic Research Service, even though it admitted that prior studies had already found that "budget and time constraints" were factors in people decision to buy fast food. Still, it said the study was the first to "extensively examine" the effects of time, budgets on people's purchasing decisions.
"Because fast food accounts for a large share of U.S. food expenditures and calorie consumption, a better understanding of the motivation behind trends in fast-food purchasing behaviors may help inform policies designed to improve the diet quality of Americans," it said.
Aside from discovering that saving time was a big factor, the study also found that people looking to save time seem to be busier.
"Those that purchase fast food on a given day spend less time eating and drinking as a primary (main) activity, sleeping, doing housework, and watching television than the average for the total population," it said. It also said these busy people sometimes eat while they work, and sleep an average of 23 minutes less each day than the average person.
The study also drew another seemingly obvious conclusion: that fast food purchasers may not be eating as well as others.
"To the extent that eating quickly may not be ideal and that eating is done while one is engaged in activities that demand focus suggests that fast-food purchasers have different, and perhaps poorer, eating habits than others," it said.
The study also spent considerable time examining whether fast food purchases changed during the recent recession, but found they stayed "fairly constant."
Data for the study was drawn from the American Time Use Survey, which is run by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.