Study: Binge-Watching Two or More Hours of TV is Making Us Depressed

“The next episode of Orange is the New Black will be starting in 5…4…3…”

Oh, go on then.

If you’ve ever felt the irresistible pull of the next episode of that Netflix series even though you haven’t washed or moved from your bed for quite some time, and were supposed to meet your best friend for brunch – but that was six hours ago now — the good news is you’re not alone.

The bad news is you’re depressed. We all are, according to a recent study on binge-watching TV.

Of the 409 participants who took part in the University of Toledo’s study, 35 per cent identified themselves as binge-watchers. Most people in the study (77 per cent) reported watching TV for two hours of more on average per day, without any break during the past week.

Those people who identified as binge-watchers reported significantly higher consecutive number of hours spent watching TV per day in a given week. These participants also reported higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than the others in the study.

But before we go patting ourselves on the back because the majority of us are watching less than the two hours-plus a day threshold that by it’s own definition makes it bingeing, we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t had our fair share of overindulgence.

Pinned to your sofa by laziness and an inability to stop yourself clicking ‘next’ even when you know you have a million other things you should be doing? Feelings of self-loathing and regret afterwards? Don’t tell me you haven’t been there.

In light of that, the results are hardly surprising. A study from the University of Texas in 2015 also linked feelings of loneliness and depression to binge-watching television. The study suggested that it wasn’t such a harmless activity after all; instead, it’s an addictive behaviour that temporarily avoids a reality that involves depression.

Likewise, the conclusion of this study found that TV viewing is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes. With the introduction of new ways of viewing our favourite shows, it said that binge-watching was a growing concern that we should address.

In a way, this has always been around. Be it a TV marathon or box set that you’ve ploughed through one Sunday afternoon, the urge to watch our favourite shows in one mammoth sitting is nothing new. However, the on-demand way in which we consume it has made it even easier. Some argue it’s corroded the social value of television as we cut out conversation and anticipation between episodes.

For now, it seems unlikely we’re about to change our ways. Perhaps you can at least stretch your legs at least every two hours and crack some windows during your House of Cards binge.