Television, Health, and Happiness: A Natural Experiment in West Germany

77 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2021 Last revised: 19 May 2022

See all articles by Adrian Chadi

Adrian Chadi

University of Konstanz - Department of Economics

Manuel Hoffmann

Harvard University


Watching television is the most time-consuming human activity besides work but its role for individual well-being is unclear. Negative consequences portrayed in the literature raise the question whether this popular pastime constitutes an economic good or bad, and hence serves as a prime example of irrational behavior reducing individual health and happiness. Using rich panel data, we are the first to comprehensively address this question by exploiting a large-scale natural experiment in West Germany, where people in geographically restricted areas received commercial TV via terrestrial frequencies. Contrary to previous research, we find no health impact when TV consumption increases. For life satisfaction, we even find positive effects. Additional analyses support the notion that TV is not an economic bad and that non-experimental evidence seems to be driven by negative self-selection.

Keywords: health, happiness, well-being, natural experiment, television consumption, time-use, entertainment, CSPT, ArcGIS, mass media

JEL Classification: C26, D12, I31, H12, J22, L82

Suggested Citation

Chadi, Adrian and Hoffmann, Manuel, Television, Health, and Happiness: A Natural Experiment in West Germany. IZA Discussion Paper No. 14721, Available at SSRN:

Adrian Chadi (Contact Author)

University of Konstanz - Department of Economics ( email )

Konstanz, 78457

Manuel Hoffmann

Harvard University ( email )

150 Western Avenue; Science and Engineering Comple
Suite 6.201
Allston, MA 02134
United States


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics