By Hailey Salvian
A new poll indicating that university students consume TV mostly through streaming services is sparking a debate about mental health.
The University of Texas studied the TV-watching habits of 300 young adults, as well as their emotional states, and found a strong link between depression levels and the hours of TV watched.
These findings are important to students, as according to the poll, almost half of the students surveyed watch TV through streaming services like Netflix. However, many viewers aren’t just watching one episode.
A survey released in 2013 by Harris Interactive, on behalf of Netflix, showed that about 60 per cent of TV streamers binge-watched shows. A majority of the respondents said binge-watching is defined as watching between two and six episodes of the same show in a single sitting.
Carlo Zanette, a second-year journalism student, says he considers himself a binge-watcher.
“It’s the best way to watch TV in my opinion, because after a while you’re able to completely lose yourself in the show.”
Not only is binge-watching popular, but nearly three-quarters of TV streamers in the Harris Interactive survey say they feel good about it.
“I feel entertained while I watch,” says Zanette. “I never feel guilty though, I’m not going to feel guilty about doing something I enjoy.”
Unlike Zanette, first-year film student Gianmarco Lubiana says he only watches Netflix once a week and tends to pick movies.
“They come to class tired all the time because they’ve stayed up watching three seasons of new shows,” he says.
A researcher involved in the study says in a release that people may neglect their work and relationships as binge-watching increases. Physical fatigue, obesity and other health issues are cited as causes for concern.
While he hasn’t felt the effects of binge-watching himself, Lubiana says he sees the study reflected in his friends.
“They come to class tired all the time because they’ve stayed up watching three seasons of new shows,” he says. “That is another reason I don’t watch TV…I don’t want to become addicted and have no time for anything else.”
Dr. Su-Ting Teo, director of student health and wellness at Ryerson University, says she is not surprised by the link, as it makes sense for someone who is anxious or procrastinating to binge-watch as an alternative.
Teo says watching Netflix may not be the root cause of depression, but a symptom.
“It’s not about curbing the symptom, but healing the depression,” she says.
Despite the potential health implications, the amount of online streaming services is increasing. Netflix, an American company, is currently the most popular streaming service with 57 million subscribers across 50 countries. New offerings like Shomi and CraveTV recently launched in Canada to compete with the powerhouse.
Teo also says Netflix may contribute to depression if it’s the cause for someone’s lack of sleep, exercise or human interaction, all of which are necessary for managing stress and mental wellness.
Zanette, like Teo, says he is skeptical of the study and would prefer to see the links between binge-watching and academic performance.
“That’s something I’m always concerned about, but I like to stay in denial,” he says.