Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Television Media Science

Unhappy People Watch More TV 193

Posted by kdawson
from the cause-or-effect-or-both dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "A new study by sociologists at the University of Maryland concludes that unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as 'very happy' spend more time reading and socializing. 'TV doesn't really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does,' says researcher John P. Robinson. '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.' Unhappy people also liked their TV more: 'What viewers seem to be saying is that while TV in general is a waste of time and not particularly enjoyable, "the shows I saw tonight were pretty good."' The researchers analyzed two sets of data spanning nearly 30 years (PDF), gathered from nearly 30,000 adults, and found that unhappy people watch an estimated 20 percent more television 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. 'TV can become a kind of opiate in a way. It's habitual, and tuning in can be an easy way of tuning out.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Unhappy People Watch More TV

Comments Filter:
  • Unhappy? (Score:5, Funny)

    by AndGodSed (968378) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:33PM (#25771877) Homepage Journal

    And what - happy people hang out on Slashdot??

    • Re:Unhappy? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Orion Blastar (457579) <orionblastar&gmail,com> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @03:04PM (#25772097) Homepage Journal

      No sorry, Happy People hang out in video game web sites.

      Unhappy unemployed IT geeks and nerds hang out on Slashdot. Duh! :)

    • Re:Unhappy? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @03:09PM (#25772137)

      And what - happy people hang out on Slashdot??

      My guess is they are happier than people who spend the same amount of time watching TV. Slashdot built its popularity on its comments section and hence its utility as a social outlet.

      But, speaking from experience, if one were to rub the worst half hour sitcom from one's daily tv viewing and substitute that for an equivalent amount of time getting aerobic exercise such as riding a bike, rowing, stair stepping, treadmilling, jogging, or using an elliptical trainer, one's happiness would take a quantum leap in the positive direction. If one coupled that with a complete elimination of food coloring and corn syrup and other sweeteners, then one would enjoy yet another boost in happiness. Switching to a diet where one gets 80% of one's calories from fruit, vegetables, and legumes would yield yet another jump. Of course the increase in sex that accompanied a newfound healthy appearance might possibly put one over the top in the happiness category.

      • Re:Unhappy? (Score:5, Funny)

        by AndGodSed (968378) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @03:21PM (#25772215) Homepage Journal

        Yeah - and then all you happy healthy people will look stupid one day lying there: dying from nothing.

        (on edit: I do not hope you will die soon, of course)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dun Malg (230075)

        if one were to rub the worst half hour sitcom from one's daily tv viewing and substitute that for an equivalent amount of time getting aerobic exercise such as riding a bike, rowing, stair stepping, treadmilling, jogging, or using an elliptical trainer, one's happiness would take a quantum leap in the positive direction.

        Skip the jogging, take it easy on the bike and the machines. "Light" aerobic exercise is healthier than "heavy". Better yet, stick to a half hour of moderately brisk walking. If it's not getting your heart rate up, carry some weight on your back. Running is something you reserve for when you're trying to escape tigers. Why resort to a method of getting your cardio up that beats the crap out of your joints when you can get the same exact effect another way?

        • by wigle (676212)

          Why resort to a method of getting your cardio up that beats the crap out of your joints when you can get the same exact effect another way?

          To be exact, you're not getting the same effect. High-impact exercises build bone density. Astronauts who exercise in space lose bone density no matter how much they exercise, and the same is true of people on earth as they get older.

        • If the bike is hurting your joints, you're doing it wrong. Get someone to check your posture and adjust the saddle, etc.

          btw, I can blow through 7-800 calories in an hour on the bike and that would take me a lot longer if I just walked places.

      • My guess is they are happier than people who spend the same amount of time watching TV.

        I would agree but damn near every comment is someone disagreeing with the previous one.

        • by Fluffeh (1273756)

          I would agree but damn near every comment is someone disagreeing with the previous one.

          No they're not!

      • So then why do we do all those "sinful" things again instead of living your Happy Hippy Healthy Lifestyle?

      • by jandersen (462034)

        Switching to a diet where one gets 80% of one's calories from fruit, vegetables, and legumes would yield yet another jump

        Only offset slightly by the distressing smells that would accompany such a diet :-)

      • by Chrisje (471362)

        That's funny. Typically I enjoy the odd game of squash with mates and all, but some of my best socializing and "feeling happy" moments are spent while consuming:

        - Coffee
        - Cigarettes
        - Large quantities of dead animal
        - Large quantities of Liquorice / drop / ice cream
        - Alcohol

        And I've never had issues with sex either. Plenty of that to go around. Well, after I turned 20, but still. :-D Furthermore, my appearance is *very* healthy (no, I'm not particularly overweight) and I'm a gamer.

        So how does that compute?

      • by Fluffeh (1273756)
        Shhhh!

        We make TV for all those sad lonely people to STOP them going out and having sex! Stop planting ideas in their heads to go take away our wemmin!
    • by emilper (826945)

      In other news, people tell consistent lies: if they lie about their TV-viewing habits, they will lie about working out, reading, recycling, voting the Green Party, not bribing their way out of speeding tickets etc.

    • by tubapro12 (896596)
      What's it say if I went to Hulu after reading this article?
      • by metlin (258108)

        I went to Hulu after reading your comment just to see what it was all about. :-\

  • Video Games? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cookie3 (82257) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:35PM (#25771899) Homepage

    How do video games fall into this continuum of "unhappy" to "happy"? In some respects, video games are like TV, like reading (many RPGs, visual novels), and (particularly with MMOs and live competitive games) socializing, too.

    • Re:Video Games? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @04:07PM (#25772453) Homepage
      I think the over all point is unhappy people want something passive like to just lay there and zone out. So activities that involve doing something (ie video games and even participating in an online community) probably don't count.

      That said you can always find a depressing person any group.
      • That said you can always find a depressing person any group.

        It dosen't help any depressed person to say that they're depressing, it only makes them feel worse and want to interact with people even less, continuing the cycle. There'd be much fewer depressives if people would interact with depressed folks in a optimistic, or at least opaque, manner rather than reflect every sigh and downward glance back at them.

        It's kind of like not wanting to be somebody's friend just because they don't have friends! Of course, given that humans are basically dumb beasts who thin

        • I had a friend that would probably be classified as depressed and I agree with what you said. In most instances there isn't wrong with someone who suffers from depression but I suspect a lot people think it's contagious. What can you expect when there are people that think gay is contagious?
        • by Chrisje (471362)

          Hey! Speak for yourself, buddy!

          I don't think I'm God because as opposed to God I'm relatively sure I exist.

          • by genner (694963)

            I don't think I'm God because as opposed to God I'm relatively sure I exist.

            but can you prove it.....

  • by stevejsmith (614145) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:36PM (#25771905) Homepage
    Weird that they don't include internet usage in here. And when they say "reading newspapers," does reading online count? And is it only newspapers? What about blogs? Aggregating internet use into one category would be kind of silly, considering there are many things you can do online (play games, watch Hulu/YouTube/pirated stuff, read newspapers and blogs, socialize, do chores and get practical information, etc.), but they should have at least tried.
  • What channels? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HalAtWork (926717) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:39PM (#25771919)
    What channels do they watch? What shows do they watch? Do they use TiVo or do they just channel surf? There are perfectly productive, informative, and educational reasons to watch TV. There is also good entertainment and derivative formulaic uninspired drivel. Simply saying "More TV = unhappy" is very vague.
    • There are perfectly productive, informative, and educational reasons to watch TV.

      Yes. [is.gd]

    • by eclectro (227083)

      I watch cnbc the financial news channel.

      Does watching your 401k melt into nothingness count as unhappiness?

      • by epine (68316)

        Does watching your 401k melt into nothingness count as unhappiness?

        The flip side question is more interesting. Does your 401K climb into the stratosphere on the basis of money that never existed in the first place count as happiness?

        Most of the recent "performance" of the markets was banks enlarging the money supply with complex financial instruments while risks disappeared under the sofa cushion.

        What's more, many of these fund managers were collecting advance fees, and massing their excessive compensation

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:42PM (#25771937) Journal

    Watching TV makes one unhappy....as they fail to realize the addictive nature of advertising of things they really don't need, the BS of the news media and oh my.....the re-runs....

    Watching TV is so very non-interactive.....

    Slashdot makes for the frustrated TV watchers to release their frustrations.... which explains the generally negative attitude on the internet.

    Solution.... do not get a digital TV converter box is a first step. We might just get a better internet because of it. ... sure buddy.....

    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:53PM (#25772005) Homepage

      I read a good article in new scientist (IIRC), that studied the addictive nature of TV.

      It was the sudden transitions that you get with advertising and music TV that caused people to get hooked and also feel drained and zombified after long sittings. So yeah, it's not really the medium but what you choose to watch.

      Have you looked at the faces of people "watching" MTV? Creepy.

      • "Have you looked at the faces of people "watching" MTV? Creepy."

        I had the very first such experience with my 8 year-old daughter the other day.

        Only thing was, she wasn't watching TV. She was doing stuff on her Facebook account. I asked her something and the expression on her face and tone of her voice was reminiscent of a heroin addict. It freaked me out.

      • by jandersen (462034)

        It was the sudden transitions that you get with advertising and music TV that caused people to get hooked

        You seem to forget that we are talking about data spanning 30 years. Music tv and advertising were not quite the same back then. And I think the main point they are making is not that "TV is bad for you", but that lack of social and other activity is. Why is reading a newspaper better than watching tv? Because when you read a newspaper, you are actively pursuing information and you are more likely to talk to your colleagues about it; but if you spent the evening watching MTV, you are not really likely to ta

  • by owlnation (858981) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:43PM (#25771941)
    How do you get one of these grants?

    I would like to research, for example, whether the Pope is Catholic, or whether bears shit in the woods. Does anyone at the University of Maryland know where I can get funding, since they have so much success with similar quests.

    Anyway, if you weren't unhappy to start with, watching 90% of the 2008 fall schedule on TV will make you that way pretty quickly. Writer's strike aside, this is one of the worst new seasons in the history of TV. Kath and Kim? Knightrider? Worst Week? Heroes? Are you kidding, Network Execs? You can pretty much cancel every show that debuted in 2008, on every network. You all fucked up.
    • by Manchot (847225) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @03:30PM (#25772261)
      While I'd love nothing more than to blame the network execs, the dearth of quality new shows this year is a direct result of the writer's strike. There were far fewer pilots produced last year than usual.
      • So what explains the dearth of quality new shows for the last 25 years or so?

        • What dearth in the past 25 years? We've had The Simpsons, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, South Park, Firefly, Doctor Who, Scrubs... and that's just the stuff I watch sometimes.

    • But sometimes the execs are so stupid that they don't know what's going on in front of their faces. Watch "My Own Worst Enemy". Then really watch it for subtext and the meta-critical statements which expose what the writers are getting at. On the surface it's a flashy James Bond meets Desperate Housewives mash-up. Look a little deeper and you'll find wonderful material. Sure, it's the exception that proves the rule, but it's a great exception.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's an easy one! Recently Fox News viewers are a VERY unhappy lot.

  • Related Studies (Score:4, Informative)

    by Savione (1080623) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:45PM (#25771959)

    The data suggest to us that the TV habit may offer short-run pleasure at the expense of long-term malaise.

    Even those who aren't actively watching television tend to show negative side-effects if a TV is on in the same room. I recall this one study [nytimes.com] about background TV causing abnormal development in attention spans.

    • Of course. Your attention span is the first thing to go when you watch too much TV. Your brain is overwhelmed with signal, but it can't realize that it is all noise. It is absolutely no surprise that a majority of TV watchers are brain dead, clueless, and believe that Faux noise is informative.

      Just wait until early 2009 when HDTV really fucks with your head.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lijemo (740145)

      Even those who aren't actively watching television tend to show negative side-effects if a TV is on in the same room. I recall this one study [nytimes.com] about background TV causing abnormal development in attention spans.

      This doesn't surprise me. I grew up constantly bombarded by TV and I hated it.

      I also found it mesmerizing and addictive. Which only made me hate it more. And even if it was a show I hated, I often couldn't get away from it, because I could hear it from my bedroom-- or, when visiting my dad's house, my "bedroom" was the livingroom with the TV in it, so there was nowhere I could go to escape when the damn thing was on. And I couldn't even go to bed until everyone else in the house was done watching TV for the

  • Can understand (Score:4, Insightful)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte AT drunksnipers DOT com> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:50PM (#25771989) Homepage

    When I watch TV I usually become unhappy. There's almost never anything of interest on.

  • TV can become a kind of opiate in a way.

    What does that make Slashdot?

  • All the study found is correlation, and we all know that correlation is not causation. May be people who don't socialize much and waste their time watching the idiots box are unhappy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aladrin (926209)

      That was my first thought when I read the summary. I'm happy, and I watch a good amount of TV right now... But it's all shows I actively want to see, and I watch them when I want to. (And without commercials.) In fact, I generally end up fitting TV in around everything else in my life. If there came a time when TV was what I had to fit things around, I just wouldn't watch TV. (I know, because I was there a few years ago... I actually didn't watch TV for about a year, and then I got cable with a DVR a

    • by rm999 (775449)

      "May be people who don't socialize much and waste their time watching the idiots box are unhappy."

      My guess is the correlation arises in several ways. People who don't have much to do tend to both watch more TV and be more depressed. Watching a lot of TV can leave one in a "blah" mood. When someone is not feeling in a great mood, he may distract himself with TV.

    • by Weedlekin (836313)

      Agreed. I'm quite happy to accept the statistical data, but it does not in and of itself support the conclusions made by the sociologists, who are (unsurprisingly to anyone who knows some sociologists) spouting a load of rubbish that the statistical data in and of itself doesn't support. Here are some other possible explanations for the data:

      1) Loneliness is a factor in how much TV a person watches, and lonely people are less happy than non-lonely ones. This is not a function of marital status, income, or a

    • It is usually foolish to look for pure causation in the real world. Many things that go together in life are mutually reinforcing. Depressed people lack the motivation to undertake more ambitious activities, so depression causes TV watching. But TV watching is not as satisfying as learning something or being with people, so TV watching also causes depression. Second example: Israelis and Palestinians arguing about who is to blame for (i.e. who "caused") middle-east strife, when obviously it is an endle
  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @02:56PM (#25772023)

    Stoned people also watch a lot of TV.
    The stoned people I know seem pretty happy.

    The important thing is to balance the TV time with video games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Unhappy people are more likely to watch TV but that doesn't mean all TV watchers are unhappy.
  • Lolcat! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by AndGodSed (968378)

    49 20 61 6d 20 69 6e 20 75 72 20 54 56 20 77 61 74 63 68 69 6e 20 79 6f 75 20 73 75 6c 6b

  • by cptnapalm (120276) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @03:02PM (#25772061)

    "unhappy people watch an estimated 20 percent more television than very happy people"

    Uh, if it is only a 20% difference, perhaps unhappy people do not have anyone to socialize with during that non-television time of the very happy people. And maybe that's why they are unhappy.

    • by Valdrax (32670) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @01:29AM (#25775361)

      The average American watches an average of 4.5 hours of television every day, according to Nielsen. [tvb.org] I don't know what percentage of viewers break down into the "happy" v. "unhappy" camps, but 20% of that is close to another hour of TV -- every day.

      To put that in perspective, consider two things:

      1) Most people spend 8 hrs/weekday at work and 8 hrs/day asleep. That's over half of the rest of one's day used for meals, grooming, chores, travel time, etc. For many people, TV is how they spend all of their free time during the week.

      2) 4.5 hrs/day = 31.5 hrs/week. 20% of that is over 6 hours. That's not a trivial time investment.

      Lastly, note that the above 4:35 quote is for adult men. Women watch about 40 minutes more TV per day. (The good news is that teens and children watch less.)

  • Do people watch TV because they are unhappy, or are they unhappy because they watch TV?

  • so of course unhappy people watch more TV. They are trying to become happy by enjoying TV programs and movies. But it does not always work, and some shows actually make people unhappy, so they change the channel and try to watch different shows.

    This is basically common sense.

  • Perhaps wathing TV give us unhappy people some perspective. Do you think I *want* to watch "Armageddon" at 15:00 today? No, I have to. Damn. If only "Gigli" were on, I could really be happy and thankful - that I'm not Ben Affleck.

    Seriously though; I do watch CSI (Las Vegas) to remind me what could happen if I *ever* watched MTV (of VH1) again. Now those were suicidal times:

    "Well, the next video probably won't suck... (hours later) Come ON! The *next* one can't possibly suck too... (still more hour

  • ... watch our friends on TV using the tiny cameras we've planted in their houses? I think we're very happy.

  • I'll admit that I don't watch TV but I have substituted it with the Internet. I'm a happy guy, I have a good sense of humor and personality. I'm not anti-social so much as I am using the Internet, as an excuse to not socialize. I should add that I exercise a lot, eat right, don't smoke etc -so that I'm more fit than average Joe my age and younger. I'm not unhappy, just that I wish that I know I should socialize more - but - past life experience hasn't helped.

  • I think this may be a case where correlation does not imply causation. I think it's rather obvious that a person who is spending his evenings hanging out with girls who look like Leighton Meester or Kristin Kreuk is going to be happier than those who go home and just watch people like that on their television. I think it's also obvious that reading good books is usually more enriching than watching some reality show of people competitively chasing the American dream, and who swallow a bottle of sleeping p [people.com]
    • by Valdrax (32670)

      I think this may be a case where correlation does not imply causation. [...] Watching too much television might be a sign of unhappiness, but what are the causes of that unhappiness?

      While I think the main cause of unhappiness leads to the correlation of watching too much television, I also think television has an anesthesizing and depressing effect of its own.

      Huh. Funny how you start off this entire post about how "correlation does not imply causation," and yet you provide good arguments for causation flowing in both directions:

      1) That people who are depressed are more likely to seek out television.
      2) That television itself causes a depressive state.

      So... What was the point in hauling out the beaten-to-death line about causation and correlation again?

  • by i love pineapples (742841) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @04:11PM (#25772475) Homepage
    I'm single and have no roommate. I find it soothing to have the TV or a movie on when I am home, even if I am reading or doing chores. I don't get the same effect with music. My theory is that just having some kind of conversation in the background helps me to feel less lonely when I'm by myself.

    Do I consider myself "unhappy?" I suppose a little lonely at times, but who isn't?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by metlin (258108)

      I guess the opposite is also true.

      I live with my girlfriend, and have a rather active social life - and I have no TV. Never found the need for one, either.

      I do travel a lot, and when I travel, there is almost no time between work and socializing with the clients and the team. When I'm home, all I want to do is either spend time with the woman, read, go climbing or work on something personal (e.g. my portfolio).

      I consider myself neither lonely nor unhappy in any sense. If anything, I am extremely satisfied a

    • Aside from the content itself TV has a normalizing influence. It's a representation of our culture and the way people normally interact, if you know anyone with Autism you realize that there are many ways we could interact and that the definition of "normal" used for societal interaction is very limited (for more information on this see "dating").

      It's constantly in flux like fashion and there are only so many ways to stay "current."

      TV is also something of a "dream medium" in that you might not always kn
  • Worked for me! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beve Jates (1393457) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @04:14PM (#25772485)

    Seriously, I don't watch a lot of TV normally but a few years ago I hit a very bad time where my anxiety disorder took over my life. There were a few times where I spent more than a week laying on my couch watching Seinfeld. I have all the episodes on my MythTV box and I would start at the beginning and watch as many episodes would fit in a day. It was an escape and got me through it.

    Let me tell you, mental disorders suck. I used to think people should just get over it but I now realize it's not that simple. It's really hard to put yourself in the same position as someone else with a serious problem like this. I can't even put myself back in the place I was when I had the most severe anxiety problems. Now I can't imagine sitting on the couch watching TV day after day like that... In other words I can't even put myself back into what I was feeling back then even though I went through it!

  • So I hang out here where I can vent my spleen :-)

  • New findings printed today in all papers [today.com] and broadcast on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 reveal that television is "virtually a mental vitamin" for intelligence and emotional well-being. In addition, it helps treat arrhythmia, psoriasis, tooth decay, distemper, dropsy, haemorrhoids and impotence, and lets you see through clothes.

    The findings were revealed today by the study's funders, a consortium of commercial television broadcasters and newspaper proprietors. They have recommended that television and printed newspapers be made mandatory as a public health measure, and that the Internet be renamed "The Paedophile Channel" as a warning to possible users.

    "The quick-fix nature of televisual gratification accumulates and quickly becomes permanent," said Dr Desmond Murdoch. "The artistic brilliance of thirty-second messages provides the viewer's necessary daily dose of thoughtful mental stimulation and wit.

    "I met a scientist once," said Dr Murdoch. "Well, he said he was a scientist. He handed me a remarkably large cheque."

    Further results from the research group are expected to include revelations that jaffa cakes, crisps and Coca-Cola are "fruit" for the purposes of achieving one's government-mandated five portions a day, and that snake oil liniment does all it is claimed to.

  • the more unhappy and sad i am, the more i tend to read books, trying to escape from the reality. on particularly bad weeks i can read up to 10 standard sized 300 pages paperbacks. i use all of my spare time for reading then.

    • I tend to drown myself in books when I'm depressed. I find TV more of a passive activity (watching other people do stuff) and books more engaging (I tend to put myself into the action of the book I am reading.) TV actually pisses me off when I'm in a bad mood, especially sitcoms, as my life problems don't typically resolve themselves in 30 minutes. :P
  • by nimbius (983462) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @05:29PM (#25772835) Homepage
    our children are hopelessly depressed.
  • Why would a good movie, or a very interesting documentary, not be as long-term lasting as reading a good book? The things learned and seen from a good documentary can stay with you a whole lifetime!
  • TV is enough,
    It's providing artificial friends and relatives to lonely people,
    What it is are recurrent families,
    Same friends and relatives come back
    Week after week after week after week,
    And they're wittier and they're better looking
    And much more interesting and they are richer
    Than your real friends and relatives

  • by Torodung (31985) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:14PM (#25774017) Journal

    Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television [theonion.com]

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    --
    Toro

  • I wonder if the measure of happiness comes from the subjects themselves. Maybe they're just as happy as everyone else, but they think they're not as happy as "the happy people you see on TV" (not that I've read the article or anything).
  • by WillKemp (1338605) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @10:25PM (#25774351) Homepage

    Making people unhappy is fundamental to the business strategy of the television companies.

    They pump out depressing boring shit non-stop to make people watching feel as miserable and discontented as possible. Then they show you ads for crap that promises to make you happy - and you rush out and buy it out of desperation.

    The television companies would never make a cent if they made their audience feel happy and contented.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      To paraphrase Scott Adams, happy people don't need to buy stuff. The advertiser's first job is to make you unhappy with at least some aspect of your life.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

Working...