Binge-Watching TV Is Making Us Depressed, According to an Incredibly Depressing Study
With 'House of Cards' out this week, maybe eke those episodes out a little bit.
You have met them, the new type of person that has emerged in the last couple of years through the cracks of your classic popular tribes—not quite a hipster, not quite punk or cutester, not an earnest pothead or fuckboy, but something else, something other—The Man Whose Entire Personality Is Built Around Really Liking Breaking Bad.
There he is, inexplicably turning up to your house party at the exact start time you stated on Facebook, in a Los Pollos Hermanos T-shirt and a porkpie hat. He insists on knocking on doors when there's a perfectly functional doorbell right there. He always has some blue candy meth in his pocket at all times. "It's actually really good," he's saying. "Breaking Bad. The show. The show I like. The one I was just talking about. The show. It's like... it's about everything, you know?" Does he have a theory about what Jesse did after the finale? No, worse—he has 6,000 words of fanfiction about it. "Heh, did you see SE02E03?" he asks. "Crazy ep. Crazy." What is his opinion of the episode "Fly"? "It is the best hour of television ever made." Later, when you're trying to have fun, you have to quietly escort him off the premises after he uses your pube Gilette to shave his head and tries to throw a pizza onto the roof.
Well, good news: That man is hideously depressed, and so are we all, because binge-watching TV shows is trouncing our mental health. That's according to a new University of Toledo study, anyway, which found that, of 408 participants, 35 percent qualified as binge-watchers, and those binge-watchers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than their non-binge-watching counterparts. The study found 77 percent of participants watched TV for two hours or more without a break on an average day, with anyone doing more than that—four consecutive episodes of House of Cards, a whole thing of Orange is the New Black, Brooklyn Nine-Nine on a loop until Netflix does its little 'you OK hun?' pop-up—classified as binge-watching. So, all of us, basically. Everyone reading this has binged-watched. Everyone who has ever lived, born from about 1985 onwards, is a binge-watch doer. Everyone.
Is it a surprise that binge-watching makes you feel bad? Nope. If you haven't watched so many consecutive episodes of Making a Murderer while lying under a big quilt that you actually started to feel sleepy and heavy in that sick sort of hungover way, then you haven't actually lived. Yes, I said it—the only way to truly live is to do something so fundamentally lazy that your body starts to actively feel unwell. That—not success, not love, not family, not children, not a legacy, not money, not drugs—is the true meaning of living.
"'Binge-watching' is a growing public health concern that needs to be addressed," said the scientists who headed up the study. But so can just watching TV in general. A long-term American Journal of Epidemiology study in 2011 found that watching TV for more than three hours a day put women at 13 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with depression. So can winter weather, or summer weather, or smoking, or sleeping too much, or not sleeping enough. So can, according to about a billion studies from 2010 onwards, too much Facebook. If you get through life without getting scientifically depressed by it, you are some sort of superhuman who should donate his brain to medical research. Anyway, House of Cards came out this weekend, so go easy on it—two episodes a day, three maximum. Try not to knock on tables too much because you are not, we have been through this, Frank Underwood. And don't post any spoilers online. Namaste.
Follow Joel Golby on Twitter.
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