Life&Style Writer Heidi Linton discusses the potentially harmful effects of binge-watching
If you’ve ever unintentionally spent hours devouring episode after episode, of the latest series, you’re undoubtedly in the majority. Having become accustomed to our increasingly quick-resolution world, our generation can no longer bear the suspense instigated by cliff hangers. Yet, can anyone blame us when 3, 2, 1… the next episode has begun! While most of us can admit that binge-watching has had an impact on our lifestyles, the results may be more damaging then we expect.
TV episodes, just like your favourite sweet treats, often seem impossible to resist after just one. This compulsive shift from series to series reflects an idle dependence on largely mind-numbing entertainment. While the term ‘Netflix addiction’ is largely dismissed as wit, some of the behavioural impacts of binge-watching reflect a severely addictive lifestyle. In fact, more and more people are finding themselves neglecting prior responsibilities because they are so fixated on their screens. Shockingly, a 2019 British TV survey revealed that only 19% of all adults could claim they never binge-watch, while 62% of 16-24 year olds admitted to doing so at least once a week. This form of entertainment has become compulsive and, though an inability to pull yourself away from Netflix may not seem serious, the behavioural impacts may be immense.
Are you likely to move further than the toilet or the fridge when binging? Though binge-watching is rarely considered healthy, few binge-watchers actively worry its unhealthy effects. Nonetheless, health surveys suggest that chronic sedentary behaviour, a common counterpart to your Netflix binge, can trigger greater risk of high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
This lifestyle can also result in short term health impacts; which you may already be noticing! The blue light produced by our screens has led to ever-increasing cases of eyestrain and headaches, while drastically throwing off the hormones which enable a good night’s sleep. It seems, therefore, that a late-night binge can also impact your productivity in the days that follow.
Beyond the physical impacts, the detriment binge-watching places on mental health is undeniable. Marketcast conducted a study which revealed that a whopping 56% of binge-watchers prefer to do so alone. Yet, as tempting as it may be to spend a day indoors with nothing more than a bag of popcorn and Netflix to pass the hours, this isolation can deprive you of all-important mood boosters such as social company and sunlight. Alternatively, ditching binge-watching may help reduce stress and improve your sense of self.
The question is: why is our generation so consumed by binge-watching? A TiVo Survey from 2015 revealed that while 92% of the respondents admit they have engaged in television gluttony at some point, it is the Millennials who have the highest screen time. Our generation has grown up with largely unlimited access to digital devises and TV on-demand. Where older generations could only access new episodes at weekly intervals, companies such as Netflix now allow instant access to whole series, with cliff-hangers we’re unable to resist.
Exposure to social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, further encourage this style of viewing through advertisements and recommendations. In fact, research shows that 42% of people who view a tweet about a specific TV show will either search or watch that show later on. Social media has also been a key promoter of the euphemistic internet slang, ‘Netflix and Chill’, encouraging a form of binge-watching as a new way of spending time with your loved ones. So, perhaps we cannot really be blamed for our own hazardous binge-watching habits.
Addicted to your screen? Us too…