Does watching TV make us happy?

The rise of digital devices such as mobile phones, computers, and televisions changes the way we live and treat each other. According to the Pew Research Center, “About 6 in 10 young adults in the U.S. primarily use online streaming to watch TV.”

Watching TV has spread in a vast era, carried out by many people in most countries. In a survey, it has been found that on average, European people spend approximately 226 minutes watching TV a day, while in United State, on average, this static is around 297 minutes per day. No doubt, leisure activity today is dominated by the television set. The simple reason for domination is that television gives immediate pleasure. All you have to do is press the power button.

Survey on TV consumption and life satisfaction

A survey was conducted under ESS (European Social Survey). The ESS is a survey that was carried out in 22 European countries in 2002/2003. In each country, about 1200–3000 people were interviewed.

During the interview, two questions were asked:

First question: “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays?” Answers were given on an 11-point scale ranging from 0, “extremely dissatisfied,” to 10, “extremely satisfied.”

Second question: “On an average weekday, how much time do you spend watching television?” Answers were given in eight categories, ranging from “no time at all” to “more than 3 hours.”


People who watched less than half an hour of TV a day were more satisfied with their life than people who chose any other level of TV consumption.

For those watching TV between half an hour and 2.5 hours, those interviewed reported life satisfaction was about 10% lower than in the reference group of people watching for less than half an hour per day. The negative effect was even larger for people watching TV more than 2.5 hours a day. On average, they reported an 18% lower life satisfaction level than people in the reference group.

All the differences were statistically significantly different from zero, at least at the 95% level. The general finding was thus consistent with the basic hypothesis that extensive TV watching makes people worse off because it indicates over-consumption due to a self-control problem.

The partial correlation between TV consumption and life satisfaction was estimated for the whole population and is thus representing an average effect of TV viewing across all people. It is most likely that some groups of people suffer higher dis-utility from extensive TV consumption than others.

Bottom line.

Hardly anybody would deny that watching TV provides pleasure. However, many people report that they would like to spend less time watching TV. But the point is that long hours of TV viewing may indicate impact self-control, as well as mis-predicting the long-term costs of TV consumption, which results in reducing an individual’s overall well-being over longer periods of time.

My final thought is that if you are seeking short term happiness and instant pleasure, then you can carry on watching TV for more than half an hour. And if you are searching for long term happiness and satisfaction in your life, limit watching TV less than half an hour and do something productive with your time.

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