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Why Binge-watching is Bad for Your Health

Anuj Mudaliar
Although watching multiple episodes of your favorite TV show in a single sitting seems like a lot of fun, research suggests that binge-watching is very bad for health. Let's find out why this is so!
Did You Know?
On an average, Netflix users watch over a billion hours of TV shows every month, and over 60% of these users are binge-watchers.

Binge-watching can be defined as the act of viewing multiple videos, episodes of a TV show, etc., in rapid succession or in a very short period of time, usually by the means of DVDs or digital streaming.
This practice is believed to have started with the concept of the marathon in the 1980s, where TV channels scheduled several hours of re-runs of a single series, or in watching many episodes through a DVD set. This kind of TV marathon is very popular even today.
Nowadays, with the rise of on-demand streaming of videos online through media services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, the practice of binge-watching has become a mainstream phenomenon. However, recent research into this practice has shown that watching TV for such long periods of time has some very bad effects on the human body. Let's take a closer look as to why binge-watching is unhealthy.

Negative Effects of Binge-watching

Watching television is a sedentary activity, and is usually accompanied by unhealthy snacking, which leads to slower blood circulation and metabolism.
Researchers suggest that binge-watching for long periods of time leads to high chances of obesity, heart diseases, higher amounts of fatigue, cancer, back problems, bad vision, lower fertility in males, and related chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.
Some research also suggests that people who engage in binge-watching on a daily basis are doubling their chances of premature death, although this conclusion could be a direct result of the health problems given above
Apart from this, binge-watching tends to increase the chances of missing deadlines, and in extreme cases, people start living in these fantasy worlds longer than they do in their real lives, ultimately resulting in the loss of self-esteem. Binge-watchers are also known to slack off in personal hygiene, which can be a real irritant to the people around them.
The reason behind binge-watching is said to be the release of feel-good hormones, such as dopamine, during this activity. These hormones are also related to alcohol and drug abuse, and it is theorized that watching TV for long periods regularly can lead to addiction.
Peer pressure is also thought to contribute towards this problem, so that a person can keep up in conversations about TV shows with their family and friends. Binge-watching is bad if it turns into an addiction. But how does one understand if they are addicted or not?

Signs of Television Addiction

The most common signs of addiction to TV are sleep deprivation, weight gain, and keeping a large part of your daily conversations limited to your favorite shows. One needs to ask themselves if binging on TV is causing them physical problems or stress, is it affecting work, sleep, relationships, and are they giving no time to their loved ones? If the answers to these questions are a yes, then it is a sure sign of addiction.

Binge-watching and Depression

New studies at the University of Texas, Austin, have shown that people who watch more than 3 TV shows at a time are more susceptible to signs of loneliness and depression. Alternately, it's also thought that binge-watching can be seen as a symptom of depression, rather than its cause, as it is often used as a means of escaping from the problems of daily life
Also, binge-watching an entire season of an intense drama or thriller causes feelings of loss at the end, as the fantasy world that a person was living in no longer exists.
It has also been observed that such an obsession with TV shows creates problems with self control, where people are unable to move away from the screens despite having other important tasks to do or people to interact with.
It leads to the loss of overall awareness, shorter attention spans, and lower levels of patience, even after the TV has been switched off. This leads researchers to believe that binge-watching should not be considered as a harmless addiction.

Statistics on Binge-Watching

  • Every couple of hours spent in front of the television is believed to increase the risk of colon cancer, lung cancer, and endometrial cancer by 8, 6, and 10% respectively.
  • On an average, around 7% of people around the world think that they are addicted to TV, which is actually a lot if you think about it.
  • 73% of binge-viewers think of this practice as a positive thing.
  • 'Breaking Bad' is one of the highest binged series, with ¾ of the viewers watching entire seasons in one sitting.
  • The average Netflix viewer spends around 2 hours of each day watching TV shows.

Precautionary Measures

It is best to stop binge-watching all together, and restrict yourself to less than three hours of TV/Internet each day. However, if you must binge-watch, it is important that you remember to stay hydrated, take regular breaks after each episode, subscribe to a good Internet connection, and most importantly, never watch more than one show at the same time.
Balancing watching TV with a good amount of physical exercise is paramount. It is also important that binge-watching does not become a regular habit. If you do take a little effort, there is a multitude of activities that you can resort to as alternatives to watching TV.
Engaging in human interaction regularly is one of the best ways to keep your binging in the safe zone. But keep your conversations away from the TV show!

Advantages of Watching TV with Breaks

Now that we have put all the negative stuff behind us, let us look at what you will gain by staying away from binges and marathons.
  • A TV show is not a single movie, and it should not be viewed as one. To get the most out of a TV show, you must watch the narrative, not only in terms of the entire season, but also in terms of each episode.
This way, you allow the story to sink in, and can enjoy each cliffhanger and the bits of suspense to the maximum. The pleasure of playing around with your imagination after each episode is lost if you binge-watch.
Also, smaller bits and pieces, such as admiring the costumes and the sets, tend to get minimized while binge-watching, which is a real shame, as these things add so much more to the overall experience.
  • Reviews and recaps of TV show episodes are great for enhancing your viewing experience, by providing additional perspectives to the story that you might have not thought about.
  • It ends all the fun of watching a TV series too soon, and one ends up disappointed that they have to wait for months before the next season begins.
It is truly a sad prospect, which one can avoid by giving sufficient breaks between each episode.

All of these, along with the added benefit of better health, should really make your choice a straightforward one.
It is important that everyone is made aware of the dangers of binge-watching, as with the increase in TV shows, the situation will only go from bad to worse. If binge-watching is negatively affecting your work performance or you relationships, it is time that you cut down this habit. Remember, the television is a great facility to use, not to abuse!