Nothing on the Tube

December 3rd, 2008 | Sources: Social Indicators Res.

Unhappy people spend 30% more time watching TV, according to a study published in the December issue of Social Indicators Research.

To reach this conclusion, John P. Robinson and Steven Martin at the University of Maryland combined data from specially designed personal diaries with results from the General Social Survey which contains public opinion data from 45,000 adults.

In the analysis, people describing themselves as not too happy watched nearly 6 hours more TV per week than people in the happiest cohort. Very happy people spent just under 19 hours watching the tube, while the not too happy group spent 25 hours watching television.

These findings persisted even after controlling for gender, marital status, race, income, education and age.

The research does not prove that TV causes people to fret, the authors caution. “It could be that watching television makes you unhappy, but there is also the question of whether people who are unhappy turn to television as a way to ward off their unhappiness,” Robinson told the Washington Post.

Thankfully for everybody except perhaps television marketers, only 11% of participants described themselves as not too happy. By contrast 55% were somewhat happy and 33% said they were very happy.

The average US adult has nearly 40 hours of free time, so happy or not we spend approximately half our free time in front of a TV.

Respondents were asked to rate the activities they enjoyed the most. The top 6 were sex, playing sports, playing or reading with children, religious/church activities, sleep and meals out. Watching TV was rated 12th, ahead of exercise and work.

The least enjoyed activities were yard work, house cleaning, laundry, visiting the doctor and car repair.



  1. Service Care | 4/12/08

    I’ll bet there’s some link between the unhappiness of the viewer and the appeal of the very passive form of stimulation that is television. Not that one leads to the other, but I’m guessing they complement each other.

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