Can binge watching your favorite shows make you mentally ill?

Can binge watching your favorite shows make you mentally ill?

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This is the frightening title of an article published yesterday by Monita Karmakar and Jessica Sloan on the Quartz website. The article discusses how the accessibility to so many episodes from so many shows (especially when we get them all at once), will most likely cause some of us to binge-watch them all in one “sitting”. And then what?

Reports of people feeling sad or anxious after engaging in such an activity is not out of the ordinary. People reportedly felt “anxious, wistful, bereft” (writer Matthew Schneier after watching Master of None), “depression” and “emptiness”. People even took to social media, more precisely Twitter, to express these feelings.

Watching television is clearly one of the most common leisure activities in the world. In the case of the U.S., it is reported that Americans spend around 2 hours and 49 minutes a day watching television. However, the phenomenon of binge-watching is relatively new, and it is partly caused by so many on-demand streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, which allow you to have uninterrupted access to virtually every TV series.

But does this binge-watching activity really affect our health? Research on this topic is scarce, but Quartz conducted a study on binge-watching from a public health perspective.

Watching TV excessively has been associated with health problems, such as risk of obesity or diabetes, and mental issues such as depression. Binge-watching can also become addictive, as some people lack self-control and are not able to stop after a certain point.

Quartz’s study was based on surveys of 406 North American adults, in order to find out more about their binge-watching habits and mental status.

For the majority, two to five consecutive hours of watching TV was considered binge-watching. Those who self identify as binge-watchers are reportedly more prone to higher stress levels, depression, and anxiety. So the study showed that there is indeed a relation between binge-watching, the amount of time spend doing this, and your mental health status.

However, it is not definite if mental health issues are caused by binge-watching, or the other way around. There is indeed a correlation, but not necessarily a causation.

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Caroline Parker has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Bucharest. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in the same field. She specializes in gender issues, ethnic minorities, and has a passion for literature, but she loves to find out more about any subject she comes across. When she is not busy with her studies, she is attending conferences, seeing plays which deal with contemporary issues in society, traveling, taking photos for her Instagram account, and watching beauty related vlogs. She aims to become a published writer and to pursue a Ph.D. is the field of gender studies.