Unhappiness drives people to watch more TV

November 15th, 2008 - 12:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 15 (IANS) Unhappiness drives people to watch more TV, while their cheerful counterparts choose books and people for company. Maryland University (MU) researchers reported that spending time watching TV may contribute to momentary happiness, but has deleterious effects.

John P. Robinson and his co-author Steven Martin, both MU sociologists, analysed two sets of data spanning nearly 30 years (1975-2006) gathered from nearly 30,000 adults.

Based on the data, Robinson predicted that TV viewing might increase significantly as the economy worsens over the next few months and years.

“TV doesn’t really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does,” Robinson said.

“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,” he said.

Self-described happy people were found to be more socially active, attended more religious services, voted more and read more newspapers. Conversely, unhappy people watched significantly more TV in spare time.

Unhappy people watch an estimated 20 percent more TV than very happy people, after taking into account their education, income, age and marital status - as well as other demographic predictors of both viewing and happiness, said a Maryland release.

“Through good and bad economic times, our diary studies have consistently found that work is the major activity correlate of higher TV viewing hours,” Robinson said. “As people have progressively more time on their hands, viewing hours increase.”

The study will appear in the December issue of Social Indicators Research.

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