A SAS time variable (i.e., a timestamp) is a numeric variable. Its value represents the number of seconds between January 1, 1960, and a specific time. Because of this way, it makes calculations easier. But, how do you actually calculate the difference between two timestamps in SAS?

**In SAS, you use the INTCK function to calculate the difference between two timestamps. You provide the start time, the end time, and the desired interval, and the INTCK function returns the difference in seconds, minutes, or hours. The INTCK function works both with time variables and datetime variables.**

Besides the INTCK function, we show also another method to calculate the differences in time. This method is less elegant, but makes it possible to calculate the difference in fractions of time intervals.

If you want to know how to use the INTCK function with date variables, I recommend this detailed article.

## Calculate the Difference between Timestamps – The Easy Way

The easiest way to calculate the difference between two timestamps is with the INTCK function.

INTCK("interval", start_time, end_time)

The INTCK function has 3 mandatory arguments, namely:

**interval**: With the interval argument, you define the time interval you want to use to calculate the difference. You can use (between quotation marks): second, minute, or hour.**start_time**: The start time**end_time**: The end time

With these 3 obligatory arguments, the INTCK returns the difference between the two times in the specified time interval.

**Examples**

In the examples below, we use the INTCK function to calculate the difference in seconds, minutes, and hours between the following timestamps.

data work.my_time_ds_1; input start_time :time10. end_time :time10.; format start_time end_time time10.0; datalines; 10:00:00 10:00:01 10:00:00 10:00:10 10:00:00 10:01:00 10:00:00 10:10:00 10:00:00 11:00:00 ; run;

**Difference in Seconds**

You use the “second” as *interval* argument to calculate the difference in seconds.

data work.difference_seconds; set work.my_time_ds_1; diff_in_seconds = intck("second", start_time, end_time); run;

**Difference in Minutes**

You use the “minute” as *interval* argument to calculate the difference in seconds.

data work.difference_minutes; set work.my_time_ds_1; diff_in_minutes = intck("minute", start_time, end_time); run;

**Difference in Hours**

You use the “hour” as *interval* argument to calculate the difference in seconds.

data work.difference_hours; set work.my_time_ds_1; diff_in_hours = intck("hour", start_time, end_time); run;

**Remarks**

- The arguments
*start_time*and*end_time*must be of the same type. In other words, either both time variables or both datetime variables. In this article, I explain how to extract the time portion of a datetime variable. - If you use the INTCK function in a macro function, the
*interval*argument shouldn’t be between quotation marks.

## Calculate the Difference between Timestamps – Discrete vs. Continuous

Suppose you have the timestamps 10:00:30AM and 10:01:00AM. Depending on your needs, the difference between both timestamps is 1 minute or 0 minutes. For this type of situation, the INTCK has a fourth (optional) argument, namely *method*.

The *method* argument can be *discrete* (default value) or *continuous*. The *discrete* method counts time intervals based on the boundaries of the *start_time* and *end_time*. In contrast, the *continuous* method shifts the *start_time* to count intervals.

INTCK("interval", start_time, end_time, "method")

**Examples**

The examples below show how to use the *method* argument and how the result changes depending on its value.

**Difference in Minutes – Discrete vs. Continuous**

data work.my_time_ds_2; input start_time :time10. end_time :time10.; format start_time end_time time10.0; datalines; 10:00:30 10:01:00 10:00:30 10:10:00 10:00:30 11:00:00 ; run; data work.difference_minutes; set work.my_time_ds_2; diff_in_minutes_disc = intck("minute", start_time, end_time, "d"); diff_in_minutes_cont = intck("minute", start_time, end_time, "c"); run;

**Difference in Hours – Discrete vs. Continuous**

data work.difference_hours; set work.my_time_ds_2; diff_in_hours_disc = intck("hour", start_time, end_time, "d"); diff_in_hours_cont = intck("hour", start_time, end_time, "c"); run;

## Calculate the Difference between Timestamps – Fractions of Time Intervals

So far, we have used the INTCK function to calculate the difference between two SAS timestamps. A drawback of the INTCK function is that it always returns an integer. However, for some reason, it might be necessary to calculate the difference with decimals. For example, 1.5 minutes.

Because time variables and datetime variables are stored as a number, it is easy to calculate the difference with fractions of intervals. You only need to subtract the *start_time* from the *end_time* and divide the result by 60 (for minutes) or 3600 (for hours).

**Difference in Minutes – Fractions**

data work.my_time_ds_3; input start_time :time10. end_time :time10.; format start_time end_time time10.0; datalines; 10:00:30 10:00:35 10:00:30 10:00:45 10:00:30 10:01:00 10:00:30 10:01:30 10:00:30 10:02:00 ; run; data work.difference_minutes; set work.my_time_ds_3; diff_in_minutes_fractions = (end_time - start_time) / 60; run;

**Difference in Hours – Fractions**

data work.my_time_ds_4; input start_time :time10. end_time :time10.; format start_time end_time time10.0; datalines; 10:30:00 10:31:00 10:30:00 10:45:00 10:30:00 11:00:00 10:30:00 11:30:00 10:30:00 12:00:00 ; run; data work.difference_hours; set work.my_time_ds_4; diff_in_hours_fractions = (end_time - start_time) / 3600; run;