Watching TV has been linked to feeling happier in a new study into how the small screen affects our mood.

Radio Times found that television produces positive emotions with binge-watchers found to be more empathetic and hedonistic than other viewers.

The study, in partnership with the University of Brighton and University of Sussex, also uncovered that certain programmes including the news and weather make viewers sadder and more anxious.

Professor Robin Banerjee, part of the team from the University of Sussex involved in the project, said: “The Screen Test offers an unprecedented opportunity to learn more about the role of TV in people’s lives, at a time when the media landscape is changing rapidly.

“Hearing from over 21,000 people aged from 18 to over 90 gives us a window into not just what people prefer to watch, but also how and why. We found that the experience is not the same for everyone, but the increasing choice available to people gives them the option to find programmes that meet their needs.

“We were particularly struck by the social connections that were facilitated by TV for many people. The Screen Test sets an agenda for more research to understand how engaging positively with TV has the potential to play a role in wellbeing and community life.”

Other headline statistics from the study include that people’s mood is particularly boosted after watching comedy, music or entertainment programmes.


In contrast, soap operas decreased people’s happiness.

The Screen Test also looked at streaming services and podcasts, which were associated with viewers being more open-minded and curious than traditional TV viewers.

The new study is part of centenary celebrations for the Radio Times as the magazine turns 100 this year.

Tom Loxley, joint editor of Radio Times, adds: “We know plenty about what people think of TV – good, bad or indifferent – but nothing about how it makes them feel. Until now. In some ways you could say this insight is not only overdue, but we need it more than ever.

“A century on from the birth of Radio Times, having helped guide people through the radio revolution, and a near century of TV, today we are steering them through a blizzard of content produced not just by the traditional broadcasters but also a host of streaming services in the digital universe.

“Now, thanks to this research, we can begin to understand what motivates people to choose to watch what they do.”

As part of the study, over 21,000 people were asked in an online questionnaire about their viewing habits for TV as well as podcasts and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Viewers aged between 18 and 99 were included in the results which have now been collated by an expert team from the universities.

The final results were unveiled at a special event at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank and will now be further analysed and submitted as scientific papers.