BBC Earth, the BBC’s global factual brand, has published findings of an international study titled The Real Happiness Project showing nature programming’s direct impact on the mood and wellbeing of its viewers.
The research, conducted with Professor Dacher Keltner, an expert in the science of emotion at the University of California, Berkeley, confirms that even short engagement with such shows leads to significant increases in positive emotions including awe, contentedness, joy and amusement. The study also found substantial decreases in emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, fear, stress and tiredness.
BBC Worldwide’s in-house research team collaborated with Professor Keltner, who oversees Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley on a two-phased study. A global quantitative research project of over 7500 nationally representative participants from the US, UK, Singapore, India, South Africa and Australia and a literature review of over 150 scientific studies that have explored the link between a connection with nature and human happiness and wellbeing. To further enrich the study, the research team worked with Crowd Emotion, a pioneering tech start-up that specialises in emotion recognition, using cutting edge facial mapping technology to understand how viewers respond to video footage.
The research was commissioned to mark the launch of one of the BBC’s most ambitious landmark nature series in ten years Planet Earth II, which recently premiered in the US on BBC America to universal acclaim and strong viewership. The BBC natural history juggernaut has also taken Australia, South Africa and France by storm, having debuted in those territories during the last three weeks.
A decade ago, Planet Earth inspired an unprecedented number of people worldwide to connect with the natural world, gaining an estimated global audience of over half a billion people. Planet Earth II launched in the UK in November and has already surpassed expectations by drawing the second largest live TV audience in Britain during 2016 and becoming the most successful nature documentary for 15 years.
Professor Dacher Keltner of the University of California, Berkeley commented: “The shifts in emotion demonstrated in the BBC study as a result of watching this powerful natural history series are significant as we know that wonder and contentment are the foundations of human happiness. If people experience feelings of awe, they are more likely to display empathetic and charitable behaviours and have been shown to be better able to handle stress.”
Mike Gunton, Executive Producer of Planet Earth II said: “What excites me about this study is seeing how Planet Earth II connects with people on a deep emotional level – as a film maker that is very rewarding. We’re always striving to bring our audiences closer to nature and it’s thrilling to see how this can generate such positive emotions and have a powerful impact on our viewer’s mood and wellbeing. I hope that in sparking an appreciation of the natural world Planet Earth II will also encourage people to love and protect the natural world.”