Teenagers today are spending more and more time slouched on a couch in front of the electronic box – although nowadays it’s rather too flat to really be called a box anymore – called a television. And a recent University of Pittsburg and Harvard Medical School study has found that TV time for teens could elevate their risk of becoming depressed adults.
Details and Findings of Study
The study was published in the Archives of General Psychology and the research team had looked at the lifestyle habits of 4,142 healthy adolescents, obtained from data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. That study had covered a nationally representative sample of teens in the US for a period of 7 years.
The initial survey had taken place in 1995 and the subjects, then in junior high and high school, watched a mean of 2.3 hours of TV per day. Each day, they also spent an average of 37 minutes watching videocassettes, 2.3 hours tuning in to the radio, as well as 25 minutes on computer games.
7 years later, in 2002, a follow-up survey was carried out. It was discovered that 308 of the subjects, now young adults in their 20s, had met the criteria for depression. It was found that these persons had watched an average of 22 minutes more TV each day than their non-depressed counterparts. The researchers calculated that each additional hour spent watching TV each day translated to an increase of 8% in depression risk.
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Interestingly, such a link was only observed for television, whereas computer games and videos were not associated with higher chances of being depressed.
What Caused What?
But, is it a case of TV causing depression, or is it a case of low spirits making people turn to the tube? “It could be argued that people with the predilection for later development of depression also happen to have a predilection for watching lots of TV,” said Dr Brian Primack from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Health Care, the leader of the study.
The evidence does seem to indicate that TV is the causative factor. According to Primack, the dose-response relationship does suggest that television would at least be partly accountable for the increased risk of depression.
The Link Between Television and Happiness Levels
This study is by no means the first to draw a link between television watching and one’s mental health. A University of Maryland study, for example, looked at 35 years of data of about 45,000 Americans and found that the happiest people watched the least TV, while the least happy people spent the most time in front of the tube.
In that study, TV was the only activity which registered a negative score, while the other 9 activities studied, which included going to church and visiting friends, were associated with happier people. The same issue with that the study’s findings existed, though – it was not totally clear, between watching TV and being unhappy, which was the cause and which was the effect.
A 1998 study found, too, that too much time spent watching TV can triple one’s hunger for more physical possessions, while every hour spent each day on the tube can lower one’s personal contentment by about 5%.
Why Could TV Depress Mental Health?
Television has become so much a part of modern life that it is almost shocking to learn of somebody who does not own a TV or who does not watch any programs on it. But why could TV be linked to unhappiness and depression?
The truth is, while TV has brought a fair amount of entertainment into our lives, it has numerous side effects. It subjects us, for example, to hours of political propaganda and consumerism brainwashing. It can thus instill fear and anxiety into us – TV, could, for example, alert us to possible dangers like viruses or natural disasters, causing unnecessary worry.
And it can make us feel inadequate and worthless, too. For example, we may become unhappy that we are not as pretty, or as slim, or as rich as TV personalities, or that we are incomplete because we don’t own the latest electronic gadgets or expensive handbags being advertised.
TV watching is a passive activity which reduces our brains to mush. How hard, after all, do we have to think while watching TV? And time spent watching TV means less time for other active, meaningful, health-promoting and happiness-boosting pursuits.
TV time, too, could affect one’s sleep patterns, which is important for good mental and emotional health. It is also a direct cause of junk food feasting and couch potato lifestyles, which in turn translate to sluggish bodies and obesity.
What exacerbates all of the above possibilities is that TV is such an absorbing and time-consuming activity (if it can be called an activity at all). It’s not uncommon, after all, to hear of people fixated on the set for 5 or even 10 hours at a stretch. That’s pretty frightening. And the massive amounts of advertisements certainly do not help.
It is becoming increasingly clear that excessive TV time has no place in a happy and healthy person’s lifestyle. Some even choose to totally steer clear of television. If that’s too drastic for you, you may want to consider starting a habit of picking your programs and watching only what you really want to watch, as supposed to what most people do, which is just to spend time with the TV regardless of whatever programs are on it.
You may wish to read a related article on how too much television for teens translates to higher risk of being fast food junkies as adults at http://www.naturalnews.com/025667.html.