Age, affective experience, and television use

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Aug;39(2):173-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.03.020.


Background: The reasons for the reportedly high levels of TV watching among older adults despite its potential negative health consequences are not known.

Purpose: To investigate age differences in time use and affective experience in TV use in a nationally representative sample.

Methods: Using an innovative assessment of affective experience in a nationally representative sample, several putative reasons were examined for age-related increases in TV use. A sample of 3982 Americans aged 15-98 years who were assessed using a variant of the Day Reconstruction Method, a survey method for measuring how people experience their lives, was analyzed. To understand age increases in TV use, analyses examined whether older people (1) enjoy TV more; (2) watch TV because it is less stressful than alternatives; or whether (3) TV use was related to age differences in demographics, being alone, or life satisfaction. Data were collected in 2006 and analyzed in 2008-2009.

Results: Adults aged >65 years spent threefold more waking time watching TV than young adults. Despite this trend, older people enjoyed TV less, in contrast to stable enjoyment with other leisure activities. Older adults did not seem to experience the same stress-buffering effects of watching TV as did young and middle-aged adults. This negative age-associated trend in how TV was experienced was not accounted for by demographic factors or in time spent alone. Greater TV use, but not time spent in other leisure activities, was related to lower life satisfaction.

Conclusions: Older adults watch more TV but enjoy it less than younger people. Awareness of this discrepancy could be useful for those developing interventions to promote reduced sedentary behaviors in older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Television / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult