The Science of Happiness. Register Today
   

 

What Happy People Do

By Anna Abramson | December 1, 2008 | 0 comments

What’s the difference between a happy person and an unhappy one? A recent study conducted by University of Maryland sociologists finds that happy people are more likely to socialize, participate in religious organizations, and read the newspaper—and they’re much less likely to watch television.

The study, which appears in the December issue of Social Indicators Research, examined 35 years of survey data on more than 45,000 people. The researchers, John Robinson and Steven Martin, also analyzed “time diaries,” in which individuals tracked their daily activities.

Robinson and Martin found that out of 10 activities, only one, TV watching, significantly correlated with lower levels of happiness. People who described themselves as not happy watched 30 percent more TV each day than those who considered themselves very happy.

So does watching TV actually cause unhappiness, or are unhappy people just more likely to watch TV?

Martin suggests that both explanations may be true. Happiness is deeply tied to having strong relationships with others, and individuals who lack these kinds of social connections may be drawn to the television, he says, while the more time spent watching TV may actually diminish social ties. “Television doesn’t provide any social interaction so it doesn’t help individuals form new relationships,” says Martin.

Still, Martin and Robinson say future research is necessary to disentangle the links betwen televison watching and happiness. Martin says that in order to assess cause and effect, researchers will need to analyze large samples of individuals over time, including people who either start or stop watching TV for some reason.

For now, their research provides a compelling portrait of how happy and unhappy people pass the days, weeks, and years.

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 
About The Author

Anna J. Abramson is a freelance writer and a former Greater Good editorial assistant.

  

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Most...

  
  

Greater Good Events

The Science of Happiness

Course Is Now Live! Take It at Your Own Pace Through May 2015


The Science of Happiness

An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.


» ALL EVENTS
 
 

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!

» TAKE A QUIZ
 

Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.

Watch
 

Greater Good Resources

 
 
» MORE STUDIES
 
 
» MORE ORGS
 

Book of the Week

29 Gifts By Cami Walker Walker’s life is in a downward spiral until she takes unusual advice from a friend: to give away 29 gifts in 29 days.

» READ MORE
 
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.

Sponsors

The Quality of Life Foundation logo Special thanks to

The Quality of Life Foundation for its support of the Greater Good Science Center

 
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement