Feeling depressed? Turn off that television!

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Originally posted on February 12, 2015.

Did you watch all five seasons of “Breaking Bad” over a long weekend? Have you ever longed for the weekend so that you can watch episode after episode of your new favorite television show? Are you counting down until Netflix releases Season 3 of “House of Cards” later this month? You’re not alone.

Binge-watching seems harmless—I’ve been known to veg out occasionally after a long week, watching hours of “The Wire”—but is it really? New research says maybe not.

It turns out, loneliness and depression are linked to TV binge-watching. In a recent study, over 300 18-to-29-year-olds reported their loneliness, depression, self-regulation, and binge-watching behavior. The more depressed the survey participants were, the more they binge-watched. The depression-binge watching relationship was strongest among people who lacked self-control. Faced with the option of watching yet another episode, impulsive participants went along with the binge-watching program.

These findings complement other research showing relationships between depression, loneliness, and self-regulation problems and general binging behavior. To escape from a lonely or depressed mood, people often engage in addictive behaviors.

Most of us have fallen prey to the binge watching bug. It’s okay to enjoy an occasional marathon TV-watching session. But remember the science: If you’re feeling blue, try not to hide your sorrows in the “boob tube.” It’s not likely to help, and it just might make matters worse.

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About the Author
C. Nathan DeWall is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social Psychology Lab at the University of Kentucky. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from St. Olaf College, a Master’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. DeWall received the 2011 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching. In 2011, the Association for Psychological Science identified DeWall as a “Rising Star” for “making significant contributions to the field of psychological science.”