Settling in on the couch with a bottle of wine and an entire season of Friends may seem like a perfectly enjoyable way to spend the weekend, but regular binge-watching sessions may be a sign of mental health problems.
A new study from the University of Texas at Austin found that the more lonely and depressed people are, the more likely they are to binge-watch television.
The researchers conducted a survey on over 300 millennials, asking how often and how much they watched TV, how often they felt lonely, and examining various measures of depression and self-regulation. Those who lacked self-regulatory skills reported being unable to stop clicking "next" even though they knew there were other things they needed to do, indicating a lack of self-control. The data also showed that feelings of loneliness and depression were directly correlated with binge-watching.
"Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge-watching should no longer be viewed this way," study author Yoon Hi Sung said in a statement. "Physical fatigue and problems such as obesity and other health problems are related to binge-watching and they are a cause for concern. When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others. Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously."
Previous research has shown this to be the case. A 2013 marketing study found that 71 percent ofge-watchers had intended to watch just one or two episodes, and then ended up getting sucked in. The research also found that more than half of binge watchers prefer to watch at home alone.
The research will be presented at the International Communication Association Conference in Puerto Rico this May.