A new study from the University of Maryland’s sociology department provides evidence for what many teachers, parents, and therapists have long suspected: Happy people watch less television.
John Robinson, UM sociology and the author of the study, and his colleagues relied on 35 years of data collected by the University of Chicago General Social Survey. The study incorporated data from about 45,000 Americans. The UM study looked at peoples’ level of happiness and then drew correlations with 10 activities, including going to church, visiting friends, reading newspapers, and watching television.
All of the activities were more likely engaged in by happy people, with the prominent exception of watching TV. In that case, the happiest people watched the least. The least happy people watched the most. The data is correlative, not necessarily causal. Does unhappiness lead to more time in front of the tube, or vice-versa?
“I don’t know that turning off the TV will make you more happy,” Dr. Robinson said. The best predictor of how much time one watches television is whether one is employed. Unemployment can lead to unhappiness, and to more TV time. A controlled study would be very difficult, so causation may never be demonstrated. Still, the study is certainly an indication that excessive time watching TV will usually be an indicator of dissatisfaction.
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