Young Investor

Does TV make you unhappy?

B. Venkatesh | Updated on June 25, 2011

Watching TV could leave you feeling dissatisfied.

Consider this. You have been invited to a dinner party, where you can meet old friends and make some new ones. You can either choose to go to the party or watch your favourite TV show. Which would you prefer?

First, let us clarify that economists are interested in your TV habits! This is because economics is all about incentives. Therefore, economists seek to understand your motivation to watch TV and whether watching TV is good for your economic well being.

If you are in your twenties with a positive view of life, you are most likely to go to the party and make new friends. If you are, however, in your late thirties or even older, you may, perhaps, choose to stay home and watch your favourite TV show.

Material aspiration

But if behavioural economists are right, TV can be a source of your unhappiness! One reason for this unhappiness is the advertisements that introduce you to newer products that you may desire but, perhaps, cannot afford. This increases your material aspiration level. Your earnings may, perhaps, go up as well. But as long as a gap exists between your income and aspiration levels, you are bound to be dissatisfied.

Interestingly, researchers have found that unhappy people watch more TV than happy people do! The fact is that you are more likely to be unhappy if you are older, as worries and responsibilities bog you down. Besides, watching more TV prevents you from doing other activities that may not require your immediate attention, but can improve your well being over the long-term - reading, for instance.

Despite all the research findings, you may still believe that watching TV furthers your well being. And you may be right! But the truth is that watching TV gives you less time for social relationships - you are mostly parked alone on your sofa with, perhaps, a tub of popcorn or ice-cream watching your favourite show. If nothing else, the side-effects of watching TV (eating junk food) could hurt you over the long term!

(The author is the founder of Navera Consulting. He can be reached at >

Published on June 25, 2011

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