The unexpected health benefit of watching David Attenborough’s Planet Earth

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe
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We already know that watching Planet Earth can be educational, inspiring and – when baby iguanas and snakes are involved – genuinely terrifying.

But now scientists have found another unexpected health benefit to bingeing on the David Attenborough documentaries: it appears they can make us significantly happier while also reducing our stress and anxiety.

Researchers from both BBC Worldwide and the University of California Berkeley came to the conclusion after studying 7,500 people from a range of nationalities – including the UK, US, India, Singapore, Australia and South Africa – as they watched a variety of programs, including Planet Earth II, dramas and the news.

They found that most people enjoyed a significant boost in positive feelings, such as awe, joy, contentment and amusement, while watching Planet Earth II. They also found people had a decrease in more negative emotions, such as anxiety, stress, fear and even tiredness.

The researchers used facial mapping technology to track people’s emotions in real time as they watched clips of the TV programs, in order to understand how their moods changed throughout the viewing.

The study also showed that women’s emotions changed more than men’s while watching the Planet Earth II clips, and that those aged 16-24 experienced the largest reduction in negative feelings of nervousness, overburden and fatigue.

In need of a little happiness boost? Planet Earth II is still available to watch on iPlayer here.