How Binge-Watching Is Damaging Your Health

Kayla Matthews 25-08-2017

Are you feeling proud about watching a whole season of House of Cards or Ozark in record time? Seeing who can get through an entire season of the newest hit show the quickest is almost a contest these days.


Binge-watching has become a very popular activity. Unfortunately, a British study has revealed that binge-watching has led 10 million participants to missing sleep. That is, people are so into the shows they’re binge-watching that they literally can’t stop themselves from turning off their TV or smartphone and going to bed.

And as unhealthy as that is, this is just one of the negative health consequences binge-watching can have. Keep reading to learn eight other reasons why you should step away from Netflix more often than you’d like.

1. Increasing Your Risk of Diabetes

Diabetes is a severe ailment that can result in a lifetime of insulin injections and dietary restrictions. Your risk of becoming diabetic also rises due to too much sedentary behavior. Maybe you’re binge-watching while on the treadmill or something similar, but if not, sitting and watching shows 4 Serious Health Issues From Sitting Too Long (And How to Avoid Them) Sitting too long at your desk or on your couch is a modern epidemic. Here are four deadly risks to a sedentary lifestyle. Read More could raise your risk of developing diabetes.

Researchers caution that for every hour of binge-watching, your diabetes risk goes up by 3.4 percent. However, people who exercised moderately for 150 minutes per week cut their risk by 58 percent. Be particularly mindful of this if you have a family history of diabetes.

2. Developing a TV Addiction

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Image Credit: BRUNO CERVERA via Unsplash


Like that new flavor of ice cream you can’t get enough of, binge-watching can become addictive. Scientists say the cliffhangers at the end of many TV shows can release stress hormones. They make people want to start watching the next episode even if they hadn’t planned on doing so.

Also, have you ever considered finishing a show a major accomplishment? Feeling like you have achieved something, even something as easy as binge-watching a show, releases dopamine in the brain. That feel-good chemical has an uplifting effect and contributes to a feedback loop.

It should be easy to understand the powerful effects of a TV addiction How to Recognize and Overcome Your Tech Addiction Overcoming tech addiction doesn't mean ending your use of that technology, it just means using technology to improve the quality of your life. This guide shows you how to manage your online cravings. Read More . If it persists, you might start sacrificing time with loved ones to watch episodes. Doing that could harm relationships. Additionally, you might become so hooked, you stay home from the gym to watch TV.

3. Having Difficulty Meeting New People

Besides harming the relationships you already have, binge-watching could prevent you from forming new ones. There are various difficulties people face when trying to make friends, but most of us deal with them in order to stave off the debilitating effects of loneliness How to Connect with People & Stop Feeling Lonely We all feel lonely at one time or the other. There are many practical suggestions combating loneliness. A little bit of technology can lend support. Here are seven apps and sites for connecting with others. Read More .


Once your binge-watching habit reaches a certain level, you might think, “Why should I bother?” At least temporarily, you might think your favorite shows will keep you satisfied. However, the lives of fictional characters can’t replace face-to-face interactions.

There may also be a phenomenon where you compare real-life people to TV stars. If that happens, the people you meet almost certainly won’t measure up. By staying in the house all the time, you’re hurting your mental health through potential isolation.

4. Greater Risk of Anxiety and Depression

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Image Credit: Jens Kreuter via Unsplash

You might initially binge-watch a show to help cheer you up, but then experience the opposite effect. Researchers have confirmed that possibility through a study about nightly TV habits. They asked participants to record how much TV they watched and how it made them feel.


After only two hours of TV, people felt more depressed and anxious than those who watched less. Scientists admitted the study has limitations. It did not explore the deeper reason behind those feelings and only occurred with 406 people. Still, that may be enough reason to stop binge-watching TV, especially if you already have mental health struggles The 10 Best Therapy and Counseling Apps for Mental Health Aid Here are the best free therapy apps and other mental health apps to help you manage symptoms and get support. Read More .

5. Eroding Your Self-Control

Waiting long periods for new episodes of a show is almost unheard of today. As a child, you might remember being patient for a week or even a whole season before getting new episodes. Now, show creators work harder and faster, releasing episodes extremely quickly. Netflix often releases all shows in a season simultaneously, which certainly contributes to binge-watching. You can even play the next episodes automatically to avoid even having to touch the remote control.

Collectively, all this leads to less self-control because we’ll get used to not having to wait for anything. The problem could present in other areas of life, as well. There may have been a time where you’d wait to have dinner before eating a sweet treat. If binge-watching encourages getting what you want immediately, why exercise restraint when it comes to diet?

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin had similar findings to ones mentioned here already. They discovered lonely or depressed people were more likely to engage in binge watching. Not surprisingly, those participants did so to avoid negative feelings. The team also revealed how binge watching led to less self-control.


6. Negatively Retraining Your Brain

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Image Credit: Andrew Branch via Unsplash

Did you leave the grocery store without picking up 12 Must-Have Mobile Apps for Forgetful People If you're forgetful, these apps will help you remember important events and keep your life's tasks straight. Read More a required gallon of milk? Are you struggling to remember the name of the person you met on your lunch break today? Your new habit of binge-watching TV might exacerbate both of these common scenarios.

Scientists broke people into several activity-specific groups. Those who played video games or watched movies had lower scores on short-term memory tests. Other research indicates pastimes like binge-watching can make people more prone to getting easily distracted. They’re less able or willing to think deeply, too.

Thanks to technology such as streaming media, entertainment is only a click or tap away. We no longer have to interact with our environments or other people for stimulation. If you often turn to binge-watching to avoid more strenuous brain activities, be careful. Over time, the binging could rewire your brain and cause the negative changes just discussed.

7. Growing More Belly Fat

Finding it harder to button your jeans? That could also be because of binge-watching. Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health linked binge-watching to increased belly fat. A group of 3,000 middle-aged people confirmed the connection. Specifically, 90 minutes of TV increases belly fat by about three cubic centimeters. That phenomenon did not happen with five other sedentary activities studied, including using a computer and reading.

8. Eye Strain and Natural Sleep Rhythms

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Watching TV is a well-known activity contributing to eye strain. By binge-watching instead of giving your eyes a break from TV, you could experience burning, fatigue, and blurriness.

Also, you’ve already learned how many people sacrifice sleep to support their binge habits. That could be due, in part, to the harmful effects of electronic screens.

Smartphones and tablets emit blue light What Is a Blue Light Filter and Which App Works Best? These blue light filter apps for Android will help you get a better night's sleep, even when using your device at night. Read More , and exposure to it throws off sleep schedules. Researchers also caution about a possible link between blue light and illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

Improve Your Health by Binge-Watching Less

Binge-watching has become part of our society’s culture, but it doesn’t have to threaten your health. Now that you knowing the potential health risks, it’s crucial to limit your habit of staying up all night watching TV. If the health effects above aren’t enough to convince you, at least switch up your binge-watching routine.

Consider watching your favorite shows while exercising, if it’s safe and feasible to do so. That way you can counteract some of the damaging effects to your physical health. You can also protect your sleep schedule by only indulging in your favorite shows during the day, and for limited amounts of time.

What will you do to keep your Netflix addiction from ruining your health? Please let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits: gpointstudio/Shutterstock

Related topics: Health, Media Streaming, Mental Health, Netflix, Sleep Health, Television.

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  1. Neoalfa
    September 21, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Gee... how shocking. Who would have ever thought that sitting on your ass all day doing nothing productive would turn out to be a bad thing.

    Thank you British researchers. Without you we might have never known of such perils.

  2. florence
    August 28, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    I agree with all the points here and find most of them to be true for me. Having found that my social life has drastically declined as I've aged I found my way to Netflix for "company" to the point of every day now, even falling to sleep with it running. Most of my life I haven't even so much as watched television for years at a time. I used to live a full and rich social life full of activity.
    The only thing I've been able to retain (of these points) is self-control over diet. I decided, for medical reasons, to give up alcohol and made other dietary changes. I've actually lost 25 lbs in the last year. I am still physically active but not by any means like I was all my life. Most of the time I now prefer to watch Netflix instead of going for a walk -- this is a new thing for me. I also have noticed that I'm now more inclined to use social media. Even though I signed up with social media sites years ago I never used them, but I've now found my way back to Twitter, reading other people's tweets -- as a form of socializing. I also read the NYT online and comment and read comments. It seems as if one online activity has encouraged others. It isn't just happening to young people. More and more of our society is turning to online as a form of social life. For me, I don't know how else I'd spend my hours of alone time. There are just so many real life activities available to me given my circumstances.

    • Kate O'Hara
      August 29, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I feel much the same, but am going to unhook myself from Netflix.

  3. Rudy fermo
    August 28, 2017 at 11:13 am

    I recently broke my leg and consequently am spending much more time indoors. I have been binge watching several series. Your article is on point in a number of areas. The day is over before you know it. Then comes the guilt and disgust at not having gotten anything done. Although I have always been thin, I now have 'love handles' and substantially more belly fat. I ask myself, "what am I doing?" Hopefully my leg will be healed in the next 6 weeks. Thank you for this article. I was about to put Netflix on but, decided I should read first and found this. You gave me a much more
    Productive start to my day.