The act of consuming back-to-back TV episodes in one sitting, popularized by the dominance of streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, has the power to unleash many intense, often conflicting, emotions.
Depending how you approach it, binge-watching is a joyful, comforting experience or an exercise in guilt and gluttony. While the activity has certainly become culturally acceptable – a recent survey commissioned by Netflix found that 61 percent of U.S. adults who stream a TV show at least once a week admit to binge-watching regularly – it may not be that healthy. A new study from the University of Texas has found that depressed and lonely people are more likely to partake in the mainlining of TV-episodes than their more emotionally healthy counterparts, EurekaAlerts! reports.
Researchers asked 316 participants (who ranged in age from 18 to 29) about their TV viewing habits, including how frequently they watched and how often they binge-watched. They also surveyed the volunteers on how often they experienced feelings of loneliness, depression and the inability to self-regulate. While the entire study hasn’t been released yet, the takeaway was that the more lonely and depressed a study participant was, the more likely he or she was to binge-watch.
In addition, those who experienced a self-regulation deficiency, i.e. low self-control, were also more likely to binge-watch, continuing to watch episode after episode at the expense of other, more productive activities.
These findings aren’t all that surprising; like all potentially addictive behaviors, we often binge-watch to escape from our own realities.
By this point, however, binge-watching has become something of a cultural pastime, and the study’s authors urge caution. “Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge-watching should no longer be viewed this way,” said Yoon Hi Sung, who conducted the study with Eun Yeon Kang and Wei-Na Lee.
Perhaps binge-watching should be treated like alcohol? Indulge in a bender every once and awhile (like…when Netflix drops season two of Orange is the New Black…), but don’t make a lifestyle out of it. Also, no word as of yet: Does binge-watching count as binge-watching when you make it a group activity?