Reading books, listening to music doesn’t improve well-being, study finds


OXFORD, United Kingdom – Reading books, listening to music, and watching TV – what researchers call “mainstream media” – don’t help improve happiness and well-being as much as some think. This is the result of a new survey comparing the short-term benefits of consuming traditional media over newer platforms such as websites and social media.

Researchers at the universities of Oxford and Vienna say there is a general belief that traditional media types improve the general well-being of readers and listeners. However, they add that there has been little research into its immediate benefits – if there are any.

The team surveyed 2,159 adults in the UK in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic to see how their media preferences affected their levels of happiness and anxiety. For six weeks between April and May 2020, each person recorded the time spent consuming music, TV, movies, video games, books, magazines, and audiobooks each day.

New media not better or worse than old media?

The results show that participants who read books, magazines, and audiobooks had levels of happiness and anxiety similar to those of people who did not consume traditional media. Meanwhile, those who listened to music, watched TV, and played video games generally had lower happiness scores and higher anxiety levels than other respondents.

Overall, however, the differences between media forms were small and statistically insignificant.

“There is a popular misconception that all forms of new media negatively impact our mental health, but consuming traditional media such as reading books is good for us. Yet this is not necessarily the case, as our latest research shows, ”said lead author Dr Niklas Johannes, postdoctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute in an academic statement.

The study authors note that they also did not find any occasional benefit from using various forms of media, meaning the type of media a person consumes or the amount of time they spend. spent enjoying it had little or no impact on their happiness or anxiety scores.

“There is a dominant narrative that all forms of new media are bad for you and using traditional forms of media is good for your mental health. But our results show that the overall impact of traditional media on short-term well-being is minimal. It is really important that we try to deflect the debate from such an elitist view and look at other factors that influence the general well-being of people, ”concludes Dr Johannes.

The study is published in the journal Scientific reports.


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