New research suggests the lonelier and depressed you are, the more likely you are to binge-watch television marathons or Netflix episodes.

Although settling in to watch a series of shows may seem harmless, University of Texas researchers found that younger people use this activity to move away from negative feelings.

Yoon Hi Sung, Eun Yeon Kang and Wei-Na Lee conducted a survey on 316 18- to 29-year-olds on how often they watched TV; how often they had feelings of loneliness, depression and self-regulation deficiency; and finally on how often they binge-watched TV.

Researchers discovered that those who lacked the ability to control themselves were more likely to binge-watch. These viewers were unable to stop clicking “Next” even when they were aware that they had other tasks to complete.

The researchers plan to present their study’s findings at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico in May.

Since binge-watching of television is a relatively new behavior, research on the activity is scant. Psychological factors such as loneliness, depression, and self-regulation deficiency have been known as important indicators of binge behavior in general.

For example, people engage in addictive behaviors to temporarily forget the reality that involves loneliness and depression. Also, an individual’s lack of self-regulation is likely to influence the level of his or her addictive behavior.

Therefore, the new study attempted to understand binge-watching behavior from this set of known factors.

“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,” Sung said.

“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. Our research is a step toward exploring binge-watching as an important media and social phenomenon.”

Source: University of Texas-Austin/EurekAlert