Along with fall fashion, cooler weather and the release of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, the end of September is synonymous with the return of our favorite TV shows.
It has been more than 75 years since the TV was introduced at the World’s Fair in 1939. In 2011, the New York Times reported 96.7 percent of households in the United States own a television, making it one of the most popular pastimes. Research has shown that the average American spends nearly 5 hours a day watching television. Many view TV shows as a chance to unwind and relax, with most viewers reporting an increases in positive feelings, despite the fact that many popular TV-series are filled with suspense and drama.
From AMC’s The Walking Dead to NBC’s Scandal, many of the top shows returning this fall are bursting with violence, deception and tragedy, yet we find them relaxing. There have been a number of studies done to explain why we claim to enjoy the drama of television and story telling, and why it may be stressing us out.
According to a German study, stress can be somewhat contagious. When we surround ourselves with stressed out people, we are at risk of becoming stressed ourselves; this phenomenon can even extend to our relationship with our favorite shows. Part of what makes TV entertaining is the drama itself. It is often an escape method that can provoke emotional highs, as well as bursts of anxiety and distress.
Even comedic shows like Modern Family or Big Bang Theory influence our mental health. An article published in Times Magazine states that research reports those who turn on the TV as a way to relax after the day are likely doing so as a form of procrastination and in return feel guilty about it.
This procrastination may be linked with those that report higher rates of depression in those that watch excessive television. Watching TV often replaces healthier habits that are proven to reduce depression and anxiety such as exercise and social interaction.
The saying “too much of a good thing” can be applied perfectly to our relationship with television. If you are a TV aficionado, be sure to balance time spent enveloped in TV with time spent outdoors, exercising and engaging with others.