November 20, 2008

Watching TV is the one activity happy people do less than unhappy people.

A study shows. A separate question is whether watching less TV makes you happy or being happy makes you watch less TV.


Joe said...

I think we're seeing selection bias here; the researchers want this result and define happiness in such a way as to achieve it. It's merely an extension of the anti-intellectual philosophy which holds that unbounded physical activity (except hunting) is good while intellectual pursuits, including reading and using the computer, are bad.

Lem said...

.. being happy makes you watch less TV.


Here is an alternative to both ...

Host with the Most said...

I am personally happy that I watch less TV than ever.

I do spend more time on the Internet than ever before, however.

I feel balanced.

Revenant said...

Having things to do makes me happy. I mostly just watch TV when I've got nothing to do. So, having things to do both makes me happy and reduces my TV time. Not having things to do increases my unhappiness and my TV watching.

So in my case, at least, one doesn't cause the other. Both are caused by a third factor.

Ann Althouse said...

"Having things to do makes me happy. I mostly just watch TV when I've got nothing to do."

But reading is the same, and the study did not show that happy people read less.

Lem said...

ricpic said...

The passivity of TV gazing exhausts, it enervates.

As opposed to egomaniacally posting on Althouse.

Darcy said...

Interesting. I watch a lot of sports on TV, which I find makes me extremely happy. And I would say that's a good point about reading, too. I consider being lost in a good book as something that makes me happy as well.

I think Joe's comments are also interesting.

blake said...

I find it hard to believe that there's no negative link between reading the newspapers and unhappiness.

One of a series of stories we can expect from the tanking NYT about how The Good People read newspapers?

veni vidi vici said...

This same study comes out every 15-20 years, or at least it has since I was first in college in the mid-1980s. Todd Gitlin wrote a bunch of stuff on this and related subjects back in the day.

Anecdotally, I would agree with the results.

I don't understand how saying "watching TV is bad/makes you unhappy" is an extension of *anti*-intellectualism, though. Seems the opposite, no?

AJ Lynch said...

Reading the NY Times can make people unhappy.

i.e Happy people like me become unhappy when I am tricked into reading a NYT story by Althouse.

But I never stop being funny!

laura said...

If I'm watching tv to avoid doing something else, am I happy that I'm avoiding that something else or would I be happier doing that something else? Hmmm.

rhhardin said...

When I got a high school grade less than C (back when C meant something), TV was banned until the grade improved.

As a result, I didn't watch much TV and never grew properly into the habit.

Listening to sound only from the other room made it sound inane, which it continued to sound in later years, even with the picture.

Lem said...

I am tricked into reading a NYT story by Althouse.


Bissage said...

So, isn’t that interesting? . . . that’s quite the coincidence . . . yes . . . that's quite the coincidence . . . quite the coincidence . . .

A study is released on Thursday telling us we shouldn’t watch television and on Sunday FOX Network will bridge season 6 and season 7 with a two-hour prequel entitled “24: Redemption.”


I think not!!!11!!

The CHINESE are behind it, I tell you . . . the CHINESE!!!1!!one!!!

Jack Bauer doesn’t have time to read studies about unhappy people watching television.


mccullough said...

Happy people also masturbate less than unhappy people. The unhappy people are unhappy because they're not getting any.

Lawgiver said...


Patrick Swayze Christmas?

While I like the song, you definitely watch too much TV. I'll never think of Patrick Swayze as the goofy ghost anymore. From now on he's a Christmas carol.

Lem said...

While I like the song, you definitely watch too much TV.

Less is not more anymore?

Mark O said...

What a night. First I learn God has no belly button. Now I find out I was not happy masturbating.

No wonder I watch TV. But, you know, there's just nothing on anymore. Not since the Steve Allen Show went off the air.

SteveR said...

Combined with a recent study that said the most unhappy group of adults are the parents of teenagers (I have three), and the amount of TV I watch, I should be very unhappy but I'm not.

But many people who watch TV may feel unhealthy, unattractive and that they live unexciting lives.

In any case happiness is largely an attitude you can control.

AJ Lynch said...

What about watching TV while masturbating? Where does that place you on the "unhappy" scale?

Trooper York said...

Saying people watch too much TV is typical elitist bullshit. TV has so much to offer now with all the many channels to choose from and to enjoy. You have sports and music and dramas and comedy and reality and something for every taste. Stop already.

Freeman Hunt said...

A couple weeks ago, I was sick enough to be couch bound. I turned on the television, and it was Skank Zoo. Skanks suing each other, skanks getting arrested, pretend skanks doing pretend skank things, reports of celebrity skanks and their skanky goings-on, skanks haranguing each other on talk shows, skanks in the news... all skanks all the time. Oh, and a few non-skanks were trying to sell me stupid gadgets and/or ugly jewelry.

I can see how watching all of that would be depressing.

(My viewing ended when Martha Stewart came on. I was happy to find a non-skank show, but suddenly realized that I was never going to make a leaf-shaped bowl out of tweed and therefore did not care how it was done. I'm glad I own DVDs.)

Freeman Hunt said...

One caveat: I only get 13 channels. People keep telling me to upgrade and buy more, but if you can't show me a single thing I like on the first 13, you're not going to get me to buy 400 more!

Trooper York said...

That's silly Freeman. You could watch an old movie on Free Movie on Demand. Or a rerun of an old quality series. There are way too many reruns of Law and Order but BET is showing the Wire albeit cleaned up a lot. You can watch funny old outrageous game shows like the Newlywed game or Match game. You can watch subliminal gay indoctrination in Frazier or Sponge Bob Square Pants. You can watch Ovation for Opera and Ballet presentation if you want to be bored out of your tits. You can go to the Artic and drive on the ice with the Ice Road Truckers. And of course there is FLAVA FLAVE and the Rock of Love Parts 1,2 and 3. Celebrity rehab, what could be more fun than that. Poker after dark. There is so much cool stuff on TV. Lots and lots of crap but plenty of funny and interesting stuff too!

blake said...

Listening to sound only from the other room made it sound inane, which it continued to sound in later years, even with the picture.

No, the key is to mute the sound and ONLY watch the picture.

And then, only sometimes.

Freem, the current "On Demand" type TV is like having a yooj DVD library that you don't actually have to dust.

Freeman Hunt said...

Trooper, I have seen every episode of Law and Order, at least the ones from back when the show was actually good, and I finished watching them all eight or nine years ago. The only other thing listed that appeals to me are the old movies, but I wouldn't expand my cable for that. I already own about 1400 DVDs. That's my On Demand library.

Host with the Most said...

I miss the original Love Boat. I dated my wife going out to dinner (cheap) and then coming back to "my place" (yes, I had a lava lamp) to watch the Love Boat (only enough money to go to the movies once a month).

Ah, those were the days.

Host with the Most said...


1 - good for you!

2 - Martha Stewart rules!

My pre-teen daughter watched Martha Stewart on Saturday mornings in the 90's, then would organize her older and younger siblings into making whatever dish was shown that week for a late brunch.

My wife and I had some pretty incredible meals on Saturday's in the 90's. My Stewart-inspired daughter helped organize 2 wedding receptions, on of which was written up in the LA Times.

Thank you, Martha!

Oligonicella said...

A professor of sociology. Fer Crissakes, that invalidates the study right there.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Does You Tube count as TV?

Host with the Most said...

I'll tell you what makes me unhappy:

From the often-quoted-by-Ann Althouse "Volokh Conspiracy":

Obama's nominee for attorney General Eric Holder:

After 9/11, he penned a Washington Post op-ed, "Keeping Guns Away From Terrorists" arguing that a new law should give "the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a record of every firearm sale." He also stated that prospective gun buyers should be checked against the secret "watch lists" compiled by various government entities. (In an Issue Paper on the watch list proposal, I quote a FBI spokesman stating that there is no cause to deny gun ownership to someone simply because she is on the FBI list.)

After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the D.C. handgun ban and self-defense ban were unconstitutional in 2007, Holder complained that the decision "opens the door to more people having more access to guns and putting guns on the streets."

Holder played a key role in the gunpoint, night-time kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez. The pretext for the paramilitary invasion of the six-year-old's home was that someone in his family might have been licensed to carry a handgun under Florida law. Although a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo showed a federal agent dressed like a soldier and pointing a machine gun at the man who was holding the terrified child, Holder claimed that Gonzalez "was not taken at the point of a gun" and that the federal agents whom Holder had sent to capture Gonzalez had acted "very sensitively." If Mr. Holder believes that breaking down a door with a battering ram, pointing guns at children (not just Elian), and yelling "Get down, get down, we'll shoot" is example of acting "very sensitively," his judgment about the responsible use of firearms is not as acute as would be desirable for a cabinet officer who would be in charge of thousands and thousands of armed federal agents, many of them paramilitary agents with machine guns

Great! We now get someone with questionable judgment (Obama) hiring someone with extreme left ideas!

THAT makes me unhappy. I'm going to sit and watch TV. I wonder if that incredible piece of humanity Rachel Maddow actually put on make-up tonight . . . .

Glen said...

Anti-intellectualism? Yo Have come to the right place. Links to NYT also provided.

BJM said...

Pecksniffian twaddle.

I'm with Trooper one this one, what with DVR/Tivo, On Demand cable, Slingbox, Netflix and Unbox one can watch a plethora of entertainment. Exactly what one likes, when one likes.

Streaming video on demand rocks (screaming video, as we call it in our house).

Happiness is internal, like luck, you make your own.

Michael said...

Host With No Brains: He'll be the next AG.

Get used to it.

And please...quit whining you little baby.

SteveR said...

Well Michael, you define whining so I'll cede to your expertise on the subject.

Darcy said...

LOL, SteveR!

Michael said...

Stevr...this is ground zero for wingnut whining.

Are you a whiner too?

PJ said...

Turning off the TV won't help if you are still tired, isolated, and not having sex. Net time is much less isolating to one personally - though not to your family.

jdeeripper said...

Michael said...And please...quit whining you little baby.

Michael quit whining about the whiners. Your boy won, he's soon to be President. Be happy, cheer up, move on.

Hey it's the Holiday time of the year. I used to love to watch the TV specials this time of year. Frosty the Snowman, the Norelco razor Santa commercial, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and of course the Peanuts specials.

Some people just feel left out during the holidays. For some TV is all they have for others that just fuels their despair.

SteveR said...

Stevr...this is ground zero for wingnut whining.

uh not really, you need to get around more

Michael said...

"Michael quit whining about the whiners."

That's funny.

Bender said...

Interesting. I watch a lot of sports on TV, which I find makes me extremely happy.

Yep, she's a Michigander all right -- sports being one of the few bright spots in Michigan, although becoming less and less so.

Darcy, you absolutely must be a hockey fan, because anyone who is a Lions or Michigan football fan would be overdosing on Prozac and Paxil.

Kirk Parker said...


Don't forget the "Live Feed from a Weather Buoy in the South Atlantic" channel, too.

Darcy said...

Ouch, Bender! I still watch them all. And I think Michigan will be back, but yeah, very hard to take lately. They beat the Badgers though! Hehe...and hey, we've got State playing pretty decent football.

Besides, with college teams, I can root for anybody playing Notre Dame or Ohio State, and I just love college football anyway.

Detroit baseball, hockey, and basketball, all extremely watchable. Add a ton of tennis on the Tennis Channel and I'm good!

I wanted to mention last night that Law & Order had to be one of the best shows ever for years. Did they change writers or something? It is absolutely unwatchable now, and has been for years. Just steeped in lefty garbage and commentary. Ugh. What a sorry end to a great show.

rdkraus said...

That buoy is better TV than most of the rest of the dreck.

Darcy said...

I'm a little worried about that OSU statement...I hope that won't get me dis-invited to the mini-gathering in Ohio next year! *ducks*

Freeman Hunt said...

My pre-teen daughter watched Martha Stewart on Saturday mornings in the 90's, then would organize her older and younger siblings into making whatever dish was shown that week for a late brunch.

Wow--impressive! I think I would encourage the viewing of Martha Stewart if it encouraged that sort of thing in the house.

Henry said...

I don't watch much TV and I'm happy.

There it is.

William said...

I once saw Emeril pour a profligate amount of garlic into a dish he was preparing. The audience went crazy, like it was Michael Jordan putting away a triple reverse dunk at the buzzer....I find the phenomenon of daytime TV strangely alienating. People care a great deal about things I know nothing about. There is not enough violence, sex, and sports on daytime tv. Thank God for CNBC.

TMink said...

There certainly are some fun things to watch on TV.

If you are happy, list what you like to watch!

For me:

Alton Brown
Three Sheets
Various HD concerts
Titans Football
North Carolina Basketball
various science shows in HD
various biography shows HD or not

I will admit to watching more TV when I am more tired from work and child care duties, but that is what I want to do then.

Oh, and I read daily.

What do you happy people watch?


Henry said...

In the last six months I've watched three or four Red Sox playoff games, two Patriots games, and one and a quarter political debates. That's it.

My favorite medium is radio: classical music, jazz music, and Red Sox games.

Shanna said...

BET is showing the Wire albeit cleaned up a lot.

Really? I’m going to have to put that on Tivo. I had HBO (or was it showtime) when that show first came out and liked it, but I haven’t had premium channels since.

I would like to know how many hours of tv these unhappy people were watching? If it’s like 15 hours, maybe that shows people who don’t have jobs or have insomnia or some other thing that could be making them depressed.

Did the survey sample people who had tivo, versus those who don’t? I find only watching the things I enjoy, and zipping through commercials, both cuts my viewing time greatly and makes me very happy.

Robert Cook said...

I used to have the tv in my front room (I live in a Manhattan apartment) and when I came home from work I would automatically turn on the set, just to have background noise. I would sit and try to read the newspaper or a book or go to the computer and peruse the internet, but I reflexively kept looking at the tv every few moments or whenever I heard something that caught my ear. I couldn't focus on the other activities. Worse, when I would sit down to simply watch tv, if I let myself sit through several programs in a row, such that I ended up watching three or more hours at a stretch, I would feel physically disturbed afterwards in a strange way, as if I were both drugged on downers and cranked on speed. That is, I felt mentally and physically sluggish, but also anxious and agitated.

I have come to believe tv itself can be deleterious--not the programming one watches, which is a separate issue--but the actual physical effect on the brain that is induced by prolonged exposure to the tv's emission of light and sound. I believe the tv signal, if one watches too much at a sitting, acts as a drug on the brain. And of course one's body becomes stiff and tired from remaining sedentary for prolonged periods of time.

I have since moved my tv to my bedroom, where I only turn it on to watch specific programs I want to see, after which I turn it off and return to the front part of my apartment, where I read and attend to the computer with no distraction from the set. I'm much more satisfied with this arrangement.

As to the happiness issue, I think unhappy, lonely people watch tv for companionship and to take their minds off their unhappiness. Of course, if one is unhappy to begin with, watching too much of the sensationalist fare featured on too many networks will probably exacerbate the problem over time.

**SkipKent** said...

No cable in our house for 6 years now, and I LOVE it!

We watch Netflix from time to time, and play selected vids and dvd's for the kids and that's it.

Not having the standard commercial sewage blaring even when no one is watching is an unqualified plus in my book, no slanting of any kind required.

Every conceivable aspect of Commercial Television is there for the sole purpose of getting you to sit down, shut up and watch more. It's there to alarm, rape and reap, not inform. Does it inform? Entertain? Of course, but the price is just too steep, especially when you have kids.

After the MSM's performance on this last election, I just don't see how anyone can allow it in their house and take it seriously.

It's not supposed to make you feel good. It's there to sell you the idea, in a million little ways, that you are diseased and in need of a cure, and the cure will be televised promptly and in detail after this brief commercial interruption.

Other than that it's fine.

blake said...

I have come to believe tv itself can be deleterious--not the programming one watches, which is a separate issue--but the actual physical effect on the brain that is induced by prolonged exposure to the tv's emission of light and sound. I believe the tv signal, if one watches too much at a sitting, acts as a drug on the brain.

I'm not sure of your explanation for why, but I certainly believe that TV has a definite, negative effect on some people, having nothing to do with the programming.

It came up here a few months ago that some suspect it as a cause of autism. I find that not entirely credible, but I've certainly known people for whom TV is like alcohol to an alcoholic.

Trooper York said...

Right now there are several excellent episodic series on TV that you can have a lot of fun enjoying whiling away a cold winter’s night. The final episodes of the Shield and Sons of Anarchy will be on FX next week and both are worth catching if you ever saw an episode. Ugly Betty is fun silly little show about the fashion world of New York magazines. The Office has a dry style that can really make you laugh when you recognize behavior from your work place. What can be more fun than celebrity rehab where you can watch Bobby Wheeler puke on Buddy Holly? What about the Rock of Love Charm school girls trying to beat each other to death with high heel shoes? Ice Road Truckers. Monster Hunters. The Real George Washington on National Geographic. Sports, news, talk, music, cooking show, What Not to Wear and three whores banging a 90 year old Viagra stuffed guy in the Girls Next Store. What's not to like?

Trooper York said...

Wait a minute. That's the Girls Next Door. Who are all quitting Hef this season and he bringing in a new bunch of "girlfriends."

They can change the title to "The Guy's New Whores!"

Trooper York said...

Oh and I highly recomend Life on Mars which is a series where this cop gets hit by a car and is in a coma but is really sent back in time to 1973. Man,the clothes and the cars and the music. It' way cool.

Costarring Harvey Keitel and Christopher from the Sopranos with wild mutton chop sideburns.

Joan said...

See, if I were going to recommend TV to Freeman I'd go with Discovery Channel's Mythbusters, which is the best combination of science, engineering, skepticism, and entertainment you're likely to find. Dirty Jobs is great, too, albeit so gross you're always happy they never perfected smell-o-vision.

BSG will be back in a couple of months, and then I'll have something worth watching, I hope.
Plus, Survivorman just started a new season, and that show is just amazing.

OTOH, I've just about given up on all the drama shows, except for House, and even that feels as if it's winding down. I'm tired of Jack Bauer yelling at everyone, as if screaming an order is so much more convincing. Get over yourself, Jack. The Office is brilliant but I understand it's not for everyone -- there are usually one or two scenes where I literally can't stand to watch, they are so embarrassing. But I get over that and enjoy the rest of the show with no problems.

I tried watching Life on Mars but it just made me miss Journeyman... although those muttonchops on Imperioli are almost worth tuning in for, just by themselves.