FRIDAY January 7, 2022 (HealthDay News) – As for what makes us happy, is it better to read or listen to music than to spend hours playing video games?
Not really, says a team of researchers from the UK and Austria.
“A lot of people think traditional media, like reading books or listening to music, are good for us,” said study leader Niklas Johannes of the University of Oxford.
“Surprisingly, we don’t really have good evidence that this is the case. In fact, this belief that new media is harmful but traditional media is beneficial can be quite elitist, ”he said.
To find out more, Johannes and his colleagues followed the media usage of nearly 2,200 UK participants for two months. Their habits were then compared to the level of anxiety and happiness the participants reported feeling.
It didn’t matter, according to the study, how much time people poked their noses through a book rather than delving into the technology. Ultimately, the two leisure activities had roughly the same impact on a person’s sense of well-being.
Johannes, a postdoctoral researcher in an Oxford Institute program focused on adolescent wellness in the digital age, sought to see how seven types of media affected participants‘ happiness and anxiety levels.
Six weekly surveys were administered to a representative sample of people aged 16 and over.
Participants indicated whether they had been involved in music, television, movies, video games, books, magazines, and / or audiobooks in the past week and how much time they had spent on it. each activity. They also indicated how happy and / or anxious they felt the day before each survey.
Researchers found that people who read or listened to audiobooks had no increase in happiness compared to those who did not. They weren’t any less anxious either.
At the same time, participants who had fun with music, TV, movies, and / or video games seemed slightly more enthusiastic and unhappy than those who didn’t.
“These differences were very small, too small for people to notice,” Johannes said.
The medium that a person uses or for how long has “little or no effect” on happiness, the researchers concluded.
“It’s easy to point fingers at the media when we are faced with big social issues, like mental health,” Johannes said. “But research generally shows that the effect of media on mental health is small. So their bad reputation is certainly not deserved.
Yet Johannes pointed out that social media engagement was not among the activities analyzed by the researchers. And although they track the time spent with different types of media, the researchers did not delve into the specific content of any of the books, magazines, music, videos, or games.
Which means, for now, the results should be interpreted as associations, he said, rather than evidence of cause and effect.
The results were published on January 6 in the journal Scientific reports.
James Maddux, professor emeritus of psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Reviewed the results.
He pointed out that the study did not address the fact that modern life is not so sharply divided between old and new technology. Maddux noted, for example, that when he reads 90% of the time he does so in front of a computer.
Describing himself as “one of those elitist snobs” who long thought reading books was a better use of time than watching TV or playing video games, Maddux said the findings came to him as “unsurprising.”
He suggested the next step might be for researchers to delve deeper into the actual content of the media consumed, to see if what gets absorbed is more critical than how much.
“A study conducted several years ago found that reading what is often referred to as ‘literary fiction’ – [meaning] Jane Austen vs. John Grisham – can lead to an increased capacity for empathy, ”Maddux said. “So maybe what kind of movies and series people watch matters too. “
It would be great, Maddux added, if the authors of this study had access to this information.
There is more information on the effects of digital media on mood in the World Happiness Report.
SOURCES: Niklas Johannes, PhD, postdoctoral researcher, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, England; James Maddux, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Psychology and Principal Investigator, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia; Scientific reports, January 6, 2022