Netflix has grown to be an absolute powerhouse when it comes to accessible movies and television shows. In addition to streaming cable TV broadcasted programs and big screen films, Netflix also has a large assortment of shows and movies that they have produced.
It is quite impossible to finish every single program that Netflix has to offer, and they have quite an amazing selection of absolutely stellar titles; hence, the ever-popular occurrence of “binge- watching,” where viewers simply cannot pry themselves from their television screens out of sheer anticipation of what the next episode holds.
While Netflix binge-watching is certainly a fun and entertaining way to pass the time, could it be possible that our favorite past-time could actually be bestowing a negative impact on our health? Some researchers seem to think so.
The University of Toledo dubbed Netflix binge-watching as “a growing public health concern” in one of their studies. Their survey was comprised of 408 people, 77% of whom claimed they watch more than two hours of TV per day, and 33% classified themselves as binge-watchers. Their study concluded with an discouragingly positive association with deficient mental health and overall physical well-being.
Why is Netflix Binge-Watching so Addicting?
Watching a few episodes of “House of Cards” might seem harmless enough; however, it is shockingly hard to pry away from a show that you are fully engrossed in when Netflix has the feature to autoplay the next episode. And this is how Netflix can suck up your entire day.
Psychotherapist Hilda Burke claims that Netflix allows for unhealthy tv-watching habits like historyhas never seen before, saying, “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.”
Another contributor to Netflix’s easy binge-watching access is that some of their television shows are comprised of relatively short episodes. For example, popular series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” features episodes that are just over 20 minutes long. Other shows, such as “13 Reasons Why,” have such a rich, engaging plot that it is so hard to walk away and not know exactly what the next episode holds.
What Your Brain Looks Like on Netflix
In 2014, the Huffington Post did a study on “What your brain looks like after a Netflix binge.” For the study, they decided to binge-watch a month’s worth of shows in one weekend. Their research was started upon reading a Netflix study which showed that 3 out of 4 subscribers who watched the first season of “Breaking Bad” finished all of the season’s episodes in one sitting.
The Huffington Post’s study detailed that five hours spent sitting in front of the TV slows the body’s circulation and metabolism, making viewers feel groggy. Some shows, such as “13 Reasons Why” and “The Walking Dead,” can also take an emotional toll on the mind due to the fact that their plots are highly dramatic and intense in nature.
Director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University, Robert F. Potter, however, states that TV watching can leave viewers in a “heightened state of arousal and excitement.”
The Role Attachment Plays in it All
Many of the television shows featured on Netflix are comprised of numerous seasons; thus, viewers pour hours and upon hours into these characters. So much so, that they almost seem like “friends” in a way. Potter says when these lengthy series come to an end, you feel like you miss these “friends” that you’ve spent so much time with, and this can leave viewers to feel somewhat depressed once their favorite shows end.
Further research also showed that staying in the realm of certain TV shows for too long can change your perspective on the world. For example, watching survival horror TV shows such as “The Walking Dead” could make you more untrusting towards people since the humans in that show have been known to turn on one another.
Another study was conducted by Japanese researchers in 2016 that concluded that lounging around and watching televisions shows for over five hours a day can increase the risk of suffering from a blood clot by 2.5 times due to the lengthy amount of time the viewer remains inactive.
Blood clots aren’t your own health risk if you are an admitted Netflix addict. Studies also show that parking yourself in front of the TV for even an hour of the day increases your risk of diabetes by 3.4%. Going on a massive Netflix binger of 10 hours would then increase your risk of diabetes by a whopping 34%.
This is due in part by the fact that most people tend to binge-eat while binge-watching. A University of Texas report showed that 26% of participants in their study of 316 people age 18-29 binge-ate while going on television benders.
Binge-eating, however, has its own factors. Studies also showed that different shows increased the viewer’s chances of binge-eating. For example, shows such as “The Walking Dead” made people inclined to binge-eat two times
more than those who watched talk shows due to the violent, intense nature of the show.
Some Positives Also?
These researchers did note some positives to Netflix binge-watching, however. They found that those who frequently watch television programs have more “elastic” brains, which allows for faster information processing, decision making, and increased cognitive and analytical skills. The fact that technology can so easily rewire our brains in concerning on its own nonetheless, and is making for future generous that are less imaginative and prefer engaging in technology than playing outside or with toys and hobbies.
Even though all of this research shows Netflix to be majorly negative, some good can come from having access to the streaming service (in moderation.) The documentary “What The Health” is changing the way many people see food, including celebrities such as Ne-Yo, and encouraging them to engage in healthier eating habits.
University of Pittsburgh epidemiologist, Andrea Kriska, believes that because of the easy availability of television shows and movies, due in part to the surge of streaming services, has caused a large percentage of the popular to partake in more sedentary lifestyles. She predicts that this trend will not change any time soon, and it is likely the percentage of people who consider themselves avid binge-watchers (currently 33%) will continue to increase.
As more and more streaming services hit the market, viewers need to remain mindful of the amount of television they are consuming and try to remember to live a life outside of the house as well, as difficult as it might be to pry away.
A tip to help ease the effects of cliffhanger endings at the end of episodes is to watch the first 15 minutes or so of the next episode of your show (if it is an hour long program), which will generally answer your questions that were left unresolved in the previous episode. After your questions are answered, stop there, and resume your daily life away from the television.