Binge-watching and well-being: Stream it or skip?

Samuel Guerra stares at a TV. Monday, February 7, 2022. (Photo illustration by: Nicole Sabot)
Samuel Guerra stares at a TV. Monday, February 7, 2022. (Photo illustration by: Nicole Sabot)

Written by: Kiana Oliver

Editor’s note: The following article is written by a counseling graduate student in partnership with Counseling Services and the Southern Accent.

Picture this: It’s late at night, and you’ve been watching the hottest new show on your favorite streaming service. Although you’ve lost track of time, you think to yourself, “I’ll just watch one more episode and then I’ll finish [insert task here].” 

Does this scenario sound familiar? According to a 2021 report by Statista, it is estimated that the gross number of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services will reach 450 million by 2026 in the United States. This forecasted number includes Netflix with nearly 70 million subscribers, Amazon with over 101 million subscribers and Disney+ with 59.5 million subscribers. But as these streaming services continue releasing the next greatest show, researchers have begun to question whether binge-watching can negatively affect our well-being. 

Research conducted by Vizcaino and others in 2020 examined the relationship between time spent on screens and health-related behaviors. The researchers discovered that binge-watching was significantly associated with less healthy dietary patterns. In other words, participants who reported binge-watching were more likely to eat fast food, and they also reported high rates of stress. 

Research published in 2017 by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggested that binge-watching can threaten your sleep. Researchers Liese Exelmans and Jan Van den Bulck examined 423 adults who reported binge-watching, and they discovered these participants reported more fatigue and poorer sleep quality. 

Knowing these health concerns, how does binge-watching affect our mental health? Published in 2021, a study by Syed Hassan Raza and other researchers examined the effects of binge-watching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings suggest that binge-watching is associated with negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness. So, next time you catch yourself binge-watching your favorite show, try these tips: 

Ways to prevent binge-watching

  • Before you’re tempted to start binge-watching and neglect your to-do list, stay focused by downloading productivity apps such as Serene, Freedom or Forest on your device. 
  • Set an alarm to keep yourself disciplined on how much time you spend watching your favorite shows. 
  • If you’re too tempted to watch the next episode, disable autoplay on your streaming service. 
  • Use your favorite show to reward yourself after completing tasks or work. Just remember to not overdo it and start binging. 

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