As family physcians, we spend our time with our patients trying to improve health care outcomes, so that they can enjoy happy and productive lives. We know that happiness is not an automatic result of good health care outcomes, however, and indeed, those who are in poor health sometimes still report that they are happy. What makes the difference? An interesting survey from the University of Chicago has just become available which reports on the behavior of happy people, compared to those who are unhappy, and the results are very interesting!
The study was in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research, and looked at the self reported behavior of 45,000 Americans collected over 35 years by the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey. It turns out that happy people spend a lot of time socializing, going to church and reading the newspaper, but they do not spend much time watching TV! The amount of time spent watching television was the only activity studied that correlated with being unhappy! Happy people watched TV much less than those who said they were unhappy.
It is not clear from this study whether watching a lot of TV is a symptom or a cause of being unhappy, but the report is very thought provoking. At the very least, time spent in front of the tube is time that is not available to engage in those activities that lead to happiness. Perhaps we should all ask ourselves, where do I fit on this scale? How about children and other family members? Are there changes I could make in my life that might lead to greater happiness and fulfillment? This study suggests that the answer is yes!