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Study Shows TV Shows Can Have Strong Emotional Impact On Viewers

Poll finds that 40% of viewers feel emotional after watching 'Grey's Anatomy' while 51% say what they watch affects their mood.

Check in on your friends if they’ve been binging “Grey’s Anatomy” — a new study revealed 40% feel emotional after watching the long-running medical drama.

A poll of 2,000 US adults with streaming subscriptions found 51% claimed what they watch has the power to change their mood for the rest of the day and 49% can’t watch movies or shows that deal with heavy or stressful topics unless they’re “in the right mood.”

A woman in an illustration watching TV on the couch with her dog. TV can help a person’s stress after a long day of work. (ILLUSTRATION/SWNS RESEARCH)

Alongside “Grey’s Anatomy,” many listed their other favorites to watch for different moods: “Modern Family” makes them feel happy (65%), “Friends” makes them feel nostalgic (38%) and “Breaking Bad” makes them feel stressed (31%).

Overall, 81% of Americans said their mood influences what they watch, and the average person can feel the emotional impact of what they watch for up to two hours afterward. Men, in particular, reported feeling the impact longer than women (144 minutes compared to 96 minutes).

Respondents according to OnePoll believe that shows will help them cure after a heavy day or a bad day. Shows can be impactful depending on the mood of the person. (ONEPOLL/SWNS TALKER)

Commissioned by global streaming media platform Plex and conducted by OnePoll, the survey uncovered 67% believe that the best cure for a bad day is watching a comfort show or movie. 

Seventy percent of respondents can name movies and shows that turned their day from bad to good, including “Forrest Gump”, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Gilmore Girls”.

Meanwhile, 39% were also able to name movies and shows that had the opposite effect — turning their day from good to bad — including “13 Reasons Why”, “Black Mirror” and “Titanic.”

Over a third (37%) recalled movies and shows so impactful, they changed their lives, including “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Parenthood,” “Pay It Forward,” “Remember the Titans,” “Roots” and “Trainspotting.”

“The impact movies and shows have on our mood is unique and powerful,” said Jason Williams, Product Director at Plex. “In an era where endless, quality content is just a click away, we have the ability to easily find something to watch specifically based on our mood – and that’s pretty awesome.”  

Results also showed two-thirds of Americans like to binge-watch their favorite shows and experience feelings of satisfaction (57%), happiness (54%) and excitement (33%) after finishing a series they loved watching.

Yet, 49% admit they get into a post-watch funk — referring to not knowing what to do or what to watch next — after binge-watching an entire series.

Half (53%) love their shows so much, they have purposely drawn-out watching episodes of certain shows, so they can enjoy it longer.

The study also reported the best and worst genres of content to watch before bed: the best being comedy (52%), action (34%) and drama (33%); the worst are horror (52%), suspense (32%) and true crime (29%).

“It’s normal to have some emotional investment in what you watch,” continued Williams. “That’s why there’s so many of us that feel that post-binge funk or why we try to savor each episode in a series. In many ways, the moods we experience from watching certain shows or movies — be it a positive or negative mood — is something that we chase after.”


  • Modern Family – 65%
  • Friends – 61%
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – 59%


  • Friends – 38%
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – 37%
  • Seinfeld – 36%


  • Breaking Bad – 31%
  • Grey’s Anatomy – 23%
  • Ozark – 21%


  • Grey’s Anatomy – 40%
  • This Is Us – 31%
  • Sex & The City – 28%

Produced in association with SWNS Research

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