Why binge-watching TV makes you depressed

Are you a television junkie? There’s a reason they call it the idiot box.

Meryl D'Souza March 15, 2016

It took me about two months between jobs to realise that the life of a freelancer is deceitful.

Yes, I had all that free time in the day to do whatever the hell I wanted, but it comes at a cost. I had no idea where my next paycheque was going to come from. And I ended up chasing people to pay me, to the point where my conversations would start with the lyrics to Rihanna’s “B**** Better Have My Money”.

It goes without saying that I was in a bitter place at that point in my life. Not getting your money on time means you’ve got to be thrifty, so I spent most of my time binge-watching TV shows. Turns out, all that TV was making me even more miserable.

The University of Toledo released a report that described binge watching as “a growing public health concern that needs to be addressed”.

For the study, which obviously doesn’t encompass all humankind, the team asked around 400 adults to complete a survey on their TV viewing habits, screening the results for potential TV addiction.

Of the 400 surveyed, 77 per cent claimed to watch more than two hours – the study’s threshold for binging – of TV on an average day while 35 per cent called themselves binge-watchers because they watched substantially more.

Participants who watched more TV reported sleep disorders, higher levels of depression, stress and even self reported TV addiction.  

Maybe it’s only sinking in now, but you had to know that all those hours of watching Breaking Bad and Game Of Thrones couldn’t be good for you.

Think about it. After you’ve binge-watched a TV series to it’s last season, you’ve had withdrawal symptoms. That self-loathing feeling of: “What do I do with my life now”. That’s how junkies feel when they’re asked to lay off a drug. The medical term for that is post-series depression.

Then you start feeling lonely because of the hole in your life now that your favourite TV show is over/cancelled.

The worst past is that it works both ways. Not only do you watch TV and show symptoms of depression later, there’s a high chance that people who are already depressed start binge-watching shows as a means of escapism. 

During those two months as a freelancer, I pushed everyone and everything aside. I knew I didn’t need to do it, but I wanted to. With the new seasons of House of Cards, Daredevil and Game of Thrones all set to take off, it’s starting to become a worrying prospect yet again.

But here’s the scary part about binge-watching, it’s not just your sanity that’s at risk. Watching TV is a sedentary behaviour, and that tends to lead to health problems, things like pulmonary embolism.

Turn off that TV and get moving, if you want to live.