New research shows that more Americans use TV to relieve stress than any other method of relaxation.
A recent survey of 2,000 adults conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the Philo streaming service found that 55 percent watch TV as a self-soothing method to relieve anxiety or stress.
This is more than the number of respondents who relax by taking a bath (42 percent) or practicing yoga (33 percent).
More than half (56 percent) of participants are looking for “comfortable” TV shows or movies they watch regularly, including twice as many people from the Northeast as the West (68 percent vs. 36 percent, compared to 59 percent in the Southeast and 55 percent in the Midwest).
Respondents most often turn to these comfort shows when they experience stress (22 percent), boredom (22 percent) or anxiety (20 percent) – and on average they have watched their comfort shows or movies about 18 different times.
“It could be related to the reward centers in your brain,” said Dr. Natalie King, Ph.D., a brain health expert and neurologist.
“Watching your favorite TV series can stimulate the release of dopamine, which causes a feeling of euphoria. In fact, dopamine tells the brain, “You like it … Keep it up!”
One in five respondents (22 percent) is looking for dramas such as historical films or shows, criminal trials and programs about doctors, making them the most popular genre to watch in a state of stress.
The baby boom, however, was most often chosen by comedies, movies and sitcoms – 25 percent. Similarly, millennials (ages 26 to 41) chose drama in 25 percent of cases.
Thriller, including horror films, mystics and disaster films, ranked second in overall popularity (16 percent), but stood out as the most popular genre (19 percent) among Generation X (ages 42-57).
Northeasters chose action (21 percent) and thrillers (22 percent) more than any other regional group – and twice as many as Westerners, particularly (10 percent for militants, 9 percent for thrillers).
More than half of all people who chose television to relax (54 percent) also have a snack in front of the TV, and action fans prefer salty carbohydrate snacks such as popcorn, chips or pretzels (42 percent).
At the same time, those who watched one-hour series were more likely to choose sweet (35 percent) and salty (34 percent).
“Eating sweet and salty foods also releases dopamine, which over time becomes even more addictive,” Dr. King added.
“When the mesolimbic dopamine system is triggered to signal that an event has been positive, it reinforces the behavior and increases the likelihood that we will re-perform those actions.”
Excluding food, respondents said they had maximum comfort in front of the TV by sending messages to their friends and family on another screen (43 percent), wearing comfortable clothes (40 percent), and watching from their favorite place (40 percent).
In fact, those who watch from their favorite place most often consider themselves “relaxed” (34 percent) after watching their comfortable show.
In the same tune, those who watch from TV or home theater are more likely to watch dramas (34 percent), and those who watch from their living room are more likely to include action movies (28 percent).
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