Turn off your TV to be happy

| November 14, 2008 | 3 Replies

Sociologists at the University of Maryland have concluded that “unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as very happy spend more time reading and socializing.” The study appears in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research. The study was based on 30-years worth of national data from time-use studies.   Here’s a summary of the study from Psysorg.com:

“TV doesn’t really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does,” says University of Maryland sociologist John P. Robinson, the study co-author and a pioneer in time-use studies. “It’s more passive and may provide escape – especially when the news is as depressing as the economy itself. The data suggest to us that the TV habit may offer short-run pleasure at the expense of long-term malaise.”

One researcher compared television watching to opiate addiction:

[Sociologist Steven] Martin likens the short, temporary pleasure of television to addiction: “Addictive activities produce momentary pleasure but long-term misery and regret,” he says. “People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged. For this kind of person, TV can become a kind of opiate in a way. It’s habitual, and tuning in can be an easy way of tuning out.”

For many more reasons to turn off the television, check out this DI post: “Just say ‘no’ to TV.  Do it for your country.”

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Category: Communication, Psychology Cognition, snake oil

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    And this earlier post: Gentlemen, Pick your Opiate!

    As I am currently in a television hiatus, I've noticed that the more depressed I become, the more I just want to climb into the flashy-thingy world of fast-cut images, sound bites, and pat situations.

    Excessive television viewing may be a result of unsocial impulses rather than a cause. Or maybe the correlation is completely acausal.

    But then, I only have a BA in Psychology and haven't read their research.

    <img src="http://dangerousintersection.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/flashy.jpg&quot; alt="Neuralizer: Flashy Thingy">

    But I do think that TV is a "Flashy Thingy" and has similar emotional aftereffects.

  2. Erika Price says:

    *cough* correlationisnotcausation *cough*

    Maybe people who are more depressed, lethargic, or lacking in social capital resort to TV because it is easy and effortless? Maybe TV does not cause the terrible symptoms merely associated with it? To me, this explanation makes more intuitive sense. When I feel bummed out, bored, and not motivated to interact, then I go for the TV. I don't think the TV causes me to feel this way in the first place.

    However, your suggestion is still valid. Even if TV didn't cause the problem, it certainly can't help. So regardless of the reason, if you feel down in the dumps, dump that TV!

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    "*cough* correlationisnotcausation *cough*"

    LOL! Thanks, Erika — well said! Indeed, that truism is something everyone should keep in mind whenever causation is suggested.

    In this case, unhappiness is *correlated* with many sociopathic behaviors — alcoholism, drug abuse, spouse abuse, sexual indiscretions…the list goes on. But, causation requires evidence, not only to substantiate that causation exists but also to establish which direction the causation flows.

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