Researchers at the University of Maryland investigated the activities of happy and unhappy people in a study published in the December 2008 issue of Social Indicators Research. John Robinson and Steven Martin examined data collected from 45,000 people over more than 35 years as part of the General Social Survey. They found that people who described themselves as being happy had less free time and engaged in more activities than those who were unhappy. Social activities, religious participation and newspaper reading were more likely to be reported by happy people, and this link remained even after accounting for other demographic factors.
Only one activity occurred more often among unhappy people: watching television. The authors surmised that there might be two possible reasons for this connection. Television might be rewarding in the short-term, but detrimental in the long-term because it replaces more positive activities. Another possibility is that people who are more depressed are more likely to watch television.
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