Washington: Tragedies actually make people happier, at least in the short term, which explains why they are drawn to movies like the "Titanic". Watching a tragedy causes people to examine their own relationships. A sad story makes people happier by bringing attention to some positive aspects in their own lives, researchers said.

"Tragic stories often focus on themes of eternal love, and this leads viewers to think about their loved ones and count their blessings," said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, associate professor of communication at Ohio State University, who led the study.

The key is the extent to which viewers thought about their own relationships as a result of watching the movie. The more they thought about their loved ones, the greater the increase in their happiness, the journal Communication Research reports.

Viewers who had self-centred thoughts concerning the movie - such as "My life isn't as bad as the characters in this movie" - did not see an increase in their happiness, according to an Ohio statement. Knobloch-Westerwick said this study is one of the first to take a scientific approach to explaining why people enjoy fictional tragedies that make them sad. "Philosophers have considered this question over the millennia, but there hasn't been much scientific attention to the question," she said.

Knobloch-Westerwick conducted the study with Yuan Gong, graduate student and Holly Hagner and Laura Kerkeybian, both undergraduates, all at Ohio State. The study involved 361 college students who viewed an abridged version of the 2007 movie "Atonement," which involves two lovers who are separated and die as war casualties.

(Agencies)