Binge-watching your favourite TV series is a guilty pleasure, but it may not be good for us, according to a new study
Bad news if you have just stumbled out of a House of Cards binge-watch: your TV-viewing habit might be making you sad. A new study from the University of Toledo calls binge-watching “a growing public health concern”. Of 408 people surveyed, 77% watched two or more hours of TV a day on average and 35% said they were “binge-watchers”. Researchers found that binge-watching had a positive correlation with poor mental and physical wellbeing.
You may think there is nothing wrong with a Making a Murderer or three a night, but only the most disciplined can switch off when Netflix’s autoplay promises the next episode in 13 seconds.
But can binge-watching really make you miserable? Psychologist Hilda Burke thinks it could be a risk. “Like any addiction, the harm ultimately lies in what it’s taking you away from,” she says. “A lot of these shows are extreme, escapist stuff, so they can stop you living in the moment. Twenty years ago, you committed a time to watch TV; now shows drop multiple episodes, which enables addiction and forces you to rely on self-discipline.”
Some Netflix shows are so short, it’s easy to convince yourself that just one more episode won’t hurt. At 24 minutes long, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fast fix. With other shows, it is the plot that tests your strength to step away. Narcos is so immersive that a character will be bumped off in the time it takes to re-read a subtitle. At least Better Call Saul is weekly, ironically keeping TV addiction under control. No wonder waiting a week for a terrestrial blockbuster such as BBC1’s The Night Manager feels like an eternity.
There is also the crushing disappointment when a box set is over. Watch Master of None and the comedown sets in by episode eight, as you realise it will all be over in under an hour and season two hasn’t even been filmed yet.
Netflix isn’t the only danger – now you can niche-binge with reality-on-demand service Hayu, which offers all the Keeping Up with the Kardashians you can eat. Pray that no one unleashes all 19 series of Homes Under the Hammer – that’s a health risk too far.
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