Americans leave their televisions on an average of 8 hours and 18 minutes per day, while sleeping only 6 hours and 40 minutes. As Ron Weasley (Harry Potter) says, we “need to get our priorities straight.”

Does This Man Look Happy?

Does This Man Look Happy?

This report of American TV habits follows on the heels of another report that suggests that happy people don’t watch TV. Here’s another example of why it’s important to interpret correlations carefully. Looking at a conclusion like this, it’s easy to say that watching TV makes you unhappy, or that being unhappy makes TV more attractive. We really don’t know. A third possibility, supported by the study, is that happy people don’t watch much TV because they’re out doing things that are correlated with happiness, like attending religious services and socializing with friends and loved ones.

I’m hoping that the 8 hours represents the habit of leaving the TV on as background noise, as opposed to intent watching.  Research suggests that the American pattern (little sleep, lots of TV) is closely linked to another issue–obesity.  These researchers found this pattern to be linked to higher blood pressure, obesity, and body fatness, independent of levels of physical activity.

So the bottom line is that we should turn off the TV and socialize! Well, I’ll make an exception this weekend for some terrific college football. USC–Notre Dame anyone?

If you really want to change this behavior, there are a surprising number of sites that tell you how to break the TV habit. And can we please get restaurants and coffee shops to take the TVs out? Who goes out to dinner to watch TV? That’s just sad.


jlynn1105 · November 26, 2008 at 6:34 am

This completely makes sense. It seems that TV allows people to not engage in each other. It has become normal to go out to dinner and just stare at the TV without speaking too many words. Were people happier in the days before TV and technology?

kesmith · November 27, 2008 at 12:39 am

For me, television is an escape from a reality. For an hour or two, I can get lost in someone else’s world. Television is a place where a viewer can watch someone else make mistakes, get rejected, and also live a fantasy life. For example, it is clear that Carrie Bradshaw cannot afford all the clothes she buys, but her life is a roller coaster ride. Just like gambling, playing video games, or smoking cigarettes, getting sucked into a fantasy world can be addictive, which is why it does not surprise me that Americans watch more TV than they get sleep. It is interesting, because it is most likely television that is making people so depressed. Women are expected to wear a size zero and men are supposed to be the “player” and the lonely super hero. When most viewers cannot live up to such great expectations, viewers get depressed and thus watch more television so at least they can get some idea of what it is like to live up to those expectations.

megrust · November 28, 2008 at 5:57 pm

I’ve actually experienced this first-hand this year. My roommates and I realized just how much we were spending on cable each month and decided to cut back by not having cable television. I’ve found that not having random shows to channel-surf through everyday when I’m trying to escape from homework makes me find other things to do like go for a walk downtown, hike, take a nap outside, go to the beach, etc. Getting outside and moving around improves my mood hugely and I don’t feel as though I’ve wasted my time looking for distractions from my couch. I won’t deny that I have 2 shows that I love to keep up with but keeping my tv time limited to those gives me so much other time to get out and do something.

mama5512 · November 29, 2008 at 12:27 pm

This information is true!!! There has been correlational studies with the more TV you watch (more than 6 hours a day) the more likely you are to view the world as a meaner place. When I was younger I remember my mom sleeping with the TV on, but I find it distracting trying to sleep and especially distrubing when out and about and seeing so many places with plasma TVs. Dont get me wrong some ocassional TV viewing is okay but needs to be limited. Cable TV is expensive, a luxury, and some people feel it is a necessity!

Jaclyn Shostrom · November 29, 2008 at 5:38 pm

This study really doesn’t surprise me much. I find that whenever I’m not feeling my best, TV is such a comfort. I fall asleep to TV pretty much every night… not so much because I watch hours of it, but just having background noise to fall asleep to after 15 minutes of watching it is nice. It makes me wonder if people really can’t live with silence and need that TV on as background noise. I know most people don’t like to be alone so having the TV on may make them feel less lonely. This seems like it may be a vicious cycle, however, because staying in to watch TV means meeting less people and only makes you more lonely once again in the end. Perhaps breaking the TV cycle, embracing silence, and getting out and doing something can take the sadness away instead of TV and maybe then the world won’t seem like such a mean place when you meet real people who are surprisingly nice!

ajacopet · November 30, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Eight hours a day? Where do some people find time for that much channel surfing? And is there even that many interesting shows on TV today? It is not crazy to think that watching TV makes you unhappy, or that you watch TV because you’re unhappy–I can see that being an everyday case. Technology has come so far these days, and watching TV can be at your convenience with such a device like TiVo. With these upgrades in TV watching, I wouldn’t be hesitant to correlate the amount of hours spent watching TV and obesity.

kfriedma · December 2, 2008 at 12:57 am

I agree and dissagree. Honestly, there is no way I could find the time to watch eight hours of TV each day, or to even have it on as background noise. But, I do enjoy my TV for sure. I fall asleep to it every night as well, and truly do find enjoyment from my favorite shows and friendly discussions relating to those shows. It really is a fantasy world to be involved in when a break from reality is the goal. But, there are points when it goes beyond simple enjoyment, and that is definitely an issue.

BrendanGaines · December 3, 2008 at 11:41 am

Once I entered High School, I had almost a daily ritual. School, go home, homework, take a break, dinner and then watch one of my shows. I believe GOOD tv, and GOOD movies are the modern book. I truly believe that you can learn a lot from tv. Now of course a lot of tv is really stupid like some reality shows and the fact that there are 3 versions of the same show (CSI), which is probably a good show, but there are three versions of it. If thats not for making money then I don’t know what is.
I can see the argument of how people don’t live their life, they live the lives of the people on tv. Still, I think if managed correctly, Tv and movies are a good thing.

lyssa115 · December 3, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I cannot imagine someone spending 8 hours a day watching television. As someone who doesn’t watch any TV, there are huge advantages to my time management as I am able to get more work finished without a distraction. One thing that is probably contributing to the amount of time spent viewing is commercials. A 45 minute show takes up to an hour because of all of the commercial breaks! On a different side, I have noticed lately that I am less able to relate to people when conversing about what happened between the characters on popular shows. TV shows can allow people to share a common interest.

eejensen · December 3, 2008 at 3:33 pm

I agree with this study. I feel like America has tuned to TV instead of physical activities, and I can see people spending 8 hours watching it. I know that I occasionally do this, but for the most part I don’t have enough time in the day to watch that much TV. My day is full of classes and studying. I do have to admit if I don’t have something to study for, I like to watch 30 minutes to an hour of TV. I like it because it’s I don’t have to think when I’m watching it; it’s a time to let my brain take a rest.
I can see how watching TV is correlated to obesity, especially if a person spends 8 or more hours watching it. I guess I should go for a walk/run instead of having my TV time.

Jennifer Jones · December 4, 2008 at 10:01 am

This study seems very accurate. I do agree that Americans watch way too much TV, especially in comparison to the little amount of exercise people do. I do enjoy an occasional show if I’m not busy, but having the TV on from 8hrs is excessive! It’s no wonder that people who have the TV on that much are less happy and more likely to be overweight…this means less time to exercise which studies show improve mood and cognitive functioning. That being said, I don’t think all TV is bad, I just think that it should be in moderation and it shouldn’t be a factor in why people are not getting enough sleep.

JoeGaldamez · June 3, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I feel this is very true. Seems like the average American IS spending more time on T.V. than resting, socializing, and many other wonderful, exciting things. I’m not much of a T.V. person but many people I know are. I won’t lie, there are some shows that I just HAVE to watch–South Park and Spongebob. But that’s it. Other than that, my T.V. lies in the living room, untouched, unseen, and dusty. It is very sad though how many of our children are becoming obese by just watching T.V. Well, more like being consumed by television. As unhappiness is at times correlated with more hours spent on television, I wonder if obesity is the result of unhappiness (or vise versa) for many of these individuals lost in the realms of television. It seems like a cycle that needs to be broken. But how?

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