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Happy Days: Less TV, More Newspaper?

A widely reported study last week showed that happy people watch less TV than those who say they're not happy.

The study, headed by John P. Robinson, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, and published in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research, set out to discover how happy people spend their time.

Reviewing data collected over 34 years from nearly 40,000 people ages 18 to 64, they pinpointed a handful of activities -- from socializing with relatives, neighbors or friends to using the Internet and going to bars -- and looked at how often people who rated themselves very happy, somewhat happy or not happy said they took part in those activities.

Like many studies of its kind, this one only established suggestive links; it showed no cause-and-effect relationship between any of the activities and people's degree of happiness. When it comes to TV viewing, for instance, there's no telling whether people who are already unhappy (perhaps because they're unemployed) find themselves watching extra TV (because they're home alone all day), or whether happy people become less happy by dint of added TV viewing.

Nor was any distinction made between various TV-viewing experiences. Mightn't there be a huge difference in the state of mind of a middle-aged man watching soaps alone all afternoon versus a happy couple sitting down together to watch a few favorite shows after a long day's work? Robinson acknowledges that his study raises many such questions to be explored and hopes further research will ensue.

Some of the study's observations seem obvious: Happy people tend to socialize more, attend religious services, and have sex more often.

To me, though, one key finding rose above all others: Happy people, the study found, read the newspaper more days per week than unhappy folks.

The take-home message: Keep reading your Washington Post!

What are your thoughts about this link between TV-viewing time and happiness? Do you watch more when you're unhappy? And are you happier when you're not parked in front of the tube?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  November 24, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health  
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I totally agree. Whenever I watch too much TV, I just get really lazy which leads to all sorts of negative thinking. I have not noticed the same effect for movies, however.

Posted by: choirgirl04 | November 24, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Good post :-) !

I think TV is an escape from life. People stress around all day. Come home stress some more. And then instead of being present and relaxing in their lives they escape into the lives of fictional and not so fictional people. Ignoring their own. So TV = true happiness, I find that very hard to believe.

I stay away from (most) newspapers because bad news = unhappiness in the reader ;).

Posted by: cathrine | November 24, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

It's the other way around. People who are unhappy (or unsatisfied, unmotivated, etc.) watch more TV. They're putting the cart before the horse.

Posted by: cmecyclist | November 24, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

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