The European Social Survey is an extraordinary data set providing information about the social activities of 42,000 people in 22 European countries. Economists have been using it to analyse and study social behaviour. This paper from 2006 wrote by Benesch, Stutzer and the misbehaved Bruno Frey analyse the impact of time spent watching TV and self-reported life satisfaction.
Interestingly when one controls for the major factors of human satisfaction, i.e. Financial satisfaction, feeling of safety, trust in people, social activities; time spent watching TV still has an statistical significant negative impact on human happiness and the more you watch the more unhappy it makes you in an exponential way. (I think Youtube may have the same negative impact.)
Even though it’s not the purpose of the paper it’s interesting to see that the most import factor for life satisfaction is financial stability (the desire to be rich has a negative impact, though) followed by be engaged in social activities.
More specifically, according to the regression analysis the happiest person is either an early 30s year old, or retired, woman, who doesn’t live abroad but lives in a farm or house in the countryside, self-employed, volunteers in community service, highly educated, married, living without children at home and working around 30 to 35 hours a week.