Binge watching typically refers to watching multiple episodes of television shows or movies in one sitting. This behavior may contribute to health problems in some people.

The availability of Netflix, Disney+, and other online streaming platforms means that people can watch television for long, uninterrupted periods. These platforms are available for several devices, including tablets, laptops, and mobile phones.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) show that 80% of people in America watch television on any given day, and it accounts for over half of the time that people spend on leisure and sports.

The USBLS suggests that the average person over the age of 15 spends around 2 hours and 46 minutes watching television per day.

Watching television may not directly harm someone’s health, but it may cause behavioral patterns that produce health problems over time. For example, a person who watches television excessively may develop sedentary behaviors or sleep problems.

This article discusses what causes binge watching, whether it can influence health, and how to manage it. The article also explores when it might be best to see a doctor.

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People may engage in this behavior for various reasons. A group of researchers in Italy suggested that binge watching may be an addictive behavior and developed an online survey to assess this in over 1,000 people. They found that they could identify people who watch television casually from those who display addictive behaviors.

However, research in this area is very new, and more studies are necessary before scientists can conclude whether binge watching is a form of addiction.

People with other health conditions may spend more time sitting down due to their symptoms, which could lead to them watching television for many hours.

For example, 2021 research suggests that people with depression are typically more sedentary than people without depression. The researchers also suggested that sedentary behavior may be a risk factor for depression.

To help support your mental well-being and that of your loved ones, visit our dedicated mental health hub for more research-backed information and resources.

Many people may engage in binge watching occasionally. However, doing this regularly could affect a person’s health by inducing sedentary behavior, sleep problems, and an unbalanced diet.

Sedentary behavior

Sedentary behavior refers to sitting or laying down with minimal movement. Watching television excessively could cause high levels of sedentary behavior.

A 2020 review examined 18 other reviews of studies of the relationship between sedentary behavior and health over 10 years. The researchers found links between sedentary behavior and several health problems, including depression, physical disability, and cognitive function.

Learn more about how a sedentary lifestyle affects health here.

Sleep problems

Sleep problems can include a range of issues, such as difficulty getting enough or sufficient quality of sleep. This could be due to people staying up late, which can disrupt their sleep.

Researchers in 2015 examined data from over 2,000 children and found that those sleeping near a small screen had around 20 minutes less sleep than those who never slept near a small screen. The researchers also found that people who slept with a television in their room had more screen time and shorter sleep durations.

A 2016 study in adults found a relationship between high smartphone screen use and poor sleep quality.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that not getting enough sleep could contribute to chronic health problems that include:

Learn more about sleep deprivation here.

Diet

Binge watching could affect diet through behaviors that a person displays during long periods of sitting, such as snacking or eating low nutrition meals.

A 2017 review of 13 studies with over 60,000 children up to the age of 18 found that children who ate while watching television tended to have a poorer diet than those who did not. They found that children who ate while watching television typically consumed sugary drinks, high fat foods, and fewer fruits and vegetables.

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the links between poor diet and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Learn about a balanced diet here.

Binge watching could affect health in several ways, such as disrupting sleep patterns. Steps that people can take to manage this behavior include:

  • limiting the number of episodes or minutes watching television
  • opting for alternative hobbies, such as sports
  • having a strict bedtime
  • purchasing healthier snacks and ingredients for cooking
  • taking regular breaks to stretch and move
  • performing active chores while watching television, such as ironing or dusting

Learn how physical activity can improve health here.

Many people will binge watch from time to time without the behavior substantially affecting their lives. However, in some people, this behavior can affect their health. Anyone who feels they watch too much television should speak with a healthcare professional.

There are no formal treatments for watching television excessively, but some people may consider the behavior signifies a non-substance addiction. Types of behavioral addictions include food and gambling addictions.

According to older research, treating these addictions may involve medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and talking therapy.

People who watch lots of television may have other health problems, such as depression, that contribute to the behavior.

A person should speak with a doctor if they are concerned about their binge watching behavior or if they suspect another health condition may be causing them to engage in the behavior more often.

People often use the term binge watching to refer to watching multiple television show episodes or movies in one sitting. Many people may occasionally engage in this behavior without any problems. However, for others, this behavior may lead to health problems.

This behavior typically involves spending long periods sitting down, which could increase the risk of various diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease. Not getting enough sleep or eating a balanced, nutritious diet may also increase a person’s risk of developing these diseases.

Anyone who feels that binge watching is adversely affecting their health should speak with a doctor for further advice.