The link between depression and watching TV
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07-06-15 Category: Mental Health, Therapy


With so much media flooding our daily lives, a fair amount of research has been devoted to observing and analyzing how certain media-consuming behaviors lead to various health issues. Aside from physiological weight gain and other negative impacts of inactivity, too much entertainment can also cause mental disruptions. Overall, media consumption on the global scale has never been higher, so it is important to know what impact the activity can have on audiences.

One of the largest media outlets is television, as there is at least one in 115.6 million households throughout the United States. Through watching news reports on TV, many Americans collectively experienced critical moments of history together, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks. Another large part of television viewing is entertainment. Over the years, the incentive to binge watch television over longer sessions has become exponentially more prominent.

In a recent study from the University of Texas that surveyed over 300 people, researchers discovered that participants who expressed loneliness, depression and problems with self-control were most associated with binge-watching activity. For clarification, the research team defined binge-watching as viewing between two and six episodes of the same television program in a single sitting. The study brings up some major new findings for the effects of television, but the researchers believe it is only exploratory for now.

Previous scientific observations in the field have found mixed results. A 1994 study of general television viewing emphasized another aspect of media consumption. A substantial proportion of TV viewers cited their behavior as a method of escaping from real world problems. For this particular population, television relieves depressive tendencies. However, researchers also observed the specific effects of news programming, which can sometimes heighten depression.

Another study in 2011 examined the relationship of television and the risk for depression in older women. Out of a large sample of almost 50,000 women, participants were questioned multiple times over the course of 10 years for their degree of depressive symptoms. At the 10-year mark, 6,505 incidents of depression were recorded by researchers. Altogether, the team found that a longer amount of time watching television was associated with a higher risk of depression.

A dynamic media landscape

This line of research is specifically relevant to the current media scene for multiple reasons. First of all, while many households may have a television, more people are using computers to access media nowadays. In fact, a compilation of media-viewing trends highlighted the fact that television viewers are consuming lower amounts each year, with a noticeable drop of 12 minutes between 2013 and 2014. However, although television usage is slowly declining, people are simply switching from one media outlet to another. A 2011 observational study found that many individuals, especially those in new generations, multitask in their media consumption. This makes measuring news and entertainment that people consume much more difficult and delays the need to address excessive behaviors.

These developments are largely due to the rise and integration of new technologies like the Internet and alternative, media-consuming applications such as Netflix and Hulu. Especially with how busy day-to-day life can be in the modern world, people do not have the convenience or the concentration to watch what is on television when they can always rely on their phones or tablets. Media has become significantly more targeted and viewers have become accustomed to this change. As a result, people want to watch their respective media content when they want and how they want. The evolution of media will continue, so professionals need to be prepared for new and upcoming complications to mental health.

Sovereign Health Group is a treatment provider that adapts to the dynamic trends in mental health as they arise. As media accommodate audiences in new ways, new forms of dysfunction and disorders can also develop. The experienced staff at Sovereign firmly believes that treatment services should be prepared to meet this need. Innovative, evidence-based programs and strategies are utilized and holistic modalities are implemented throughout the recovery process as well. If you or a loved one struggles with depression, other mental health disorder, addiction or co-occurring conditions you can contact us at anytime through Live chat online or over the phone at (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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