TV in Excess Causes Depression

Research Shows Link

Too Much TV Causes Depression:

Are you a parent who can't think of any activities for your children to engage in besides having them sit in front of the "boob tube" for hours on end. Well, you may want to rethink your options unless you want a depressed child and later a depressed adult on your hands. According to, they found that "Teens who spend long hours watching television are at higher risk for depression as adults."

In a study of over 4,100 teenagers, the findings indicate that participants raised their risk for depression with each hour of daily television viewed. The study was conducted by Dr. Brian A. Primack, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The link between TV and depression was concluded after Dr. Primack's study, which began in 1995, discovered that 308 of the teenagers had developed symptoms consistent with depression seven years later. The frequency of those symptoms also was found to be directly correlated to the number of hours they had been exposed to TV and other forms of media. When the study began the average amount of time spent in front of a screen (or listening to the radio) was about 5.7 hours, including 2.3 hours of television viewing.

"The reason that the study suggests it might be cause-and-effect is that the television viewing came first. It did not include people who had symptoms of depression when the study began," said Dr. Primack.

How TV Causes Depression:

The link between TV and depression, while noted, poses an interesting inquiry as to its causation. Dr. Primack offers three possible theories:

1) Much of what is on TV emphasizes bad news.

I have personally felt that instead of calling it the nightly news they should call it the nightly crime report. It seems like the first 15 minutes is spent on the latest crime spree, an update on a murder case, or some political scandal. The thinking is that too much exposure to depressing or negative happenings will develop a depressed or negative mindset.

2) Imperfect Commercials

It is estimated that the average person will view roughly 20,000 television advertisements a year, and a large percentage of them dwell on the fact that life is not perfect. A related take based on my own personal observation is that commercials project an ideal life gained through the product and if not attained or purchased you will be missing out on life.

3) Bad Replacement for Relationships

A third theory believed to be behind the causal link between TV and depression it that TV viewing replaces social, intellectual or athletic activities that were meant to be in existence. Also, too much late-night watching disrupts normal sleep and the necessity of resting the body which is essential for emotional and intellectual development. This may be the most plausible explanation of the three.

Inverse Link Found: Less TV Produces more Happiness and Satisfaction in Life

The ScienceDaily found that the more socially active a person was, the more religious services they attended, and the more they read newspapers and voted, then happiness was more likely to be found to exist for that person. Contrary to that finding, unhappy people were found to be the ones who watched significantly more television in their spare time. This study was conducted by John Robinson and Steven Martin of the University of Maryland and covered a 30-year analysis (1975-2006) of nearly 30,000 adults.

An interesting comparison between too much TV watching and the experience of an addict was made by Professor Martin, "Addictive activities produce momentary pleasure but long-term misery and regret. People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged, with TV becoming an opiate."

The found a similar dynamic at work in frequent TV viewing and that of addicts, "...compulsive viewers turn to television for solace when they feel distressed, rather than only watching favorite programs for pleasure. And though they get temporary emotional relief while watching, they end up feeling worse afterward."

One anecdotal case given was a 32-year-old police officer that, even though he was married with two children and worked full-time, still managed to watch 71 hours of television a week.

Another person, a housewife who is 50 with no children, watches 90 hours of television a week.

One study found that self-described addicts watched an average of 56 hours a week while the average for adults is just above 30 hours a week reports the A. C. Nielsen Company. Recent studies have also found that 2 to 12 percent of viewers see themselves as addicted to television and as a result they feel unhappy watching as much as they do, yet state they are powerless to stop themselves.


Published by Kevin VaLeu

A freelance writer, I also enjoy a ministerial career that involves public speaking, teaching, and mission trips. Even though my main forte on AC is sports and personal wellness, I enjoy researching and writ...  View profile

  • Too Much TV Causes Depression:
  • How TV Causes Depression:
  • Inverse Link Found: Less TV Produces more Happiness and Satisfaction in Life
A 32-year-old police officer, even though he was married with two children and worked full-time, still managed to watch 71 hours of television a week.