With streaming services and on-demand viewing making it easy to consume multiple episodes of a TV show at a time, binge watching has become a common pastime. Unfortunately, a new study from Japan reveals that too much binge watching time on the couch increases one’s risk for a potentially fatal blood clot in the lungs.
The ongoing study started in the late 1980s and included data from more than 86,000 adults. At the beginning of the study, researchers asked participants to indicate how much TV they typically watched on a daily basis: less than 2.5 hours, 2.5 to 5 hours, or more than 5 hours. Over a 19-year follow-up period, the researchers determined that participants who reported watching more than 5 hours of TV per day were 2.5 times more likely to die of a pulmonary embolism than participants who watched less than 5 hours a day. They also found that for every 2 hours of watching TV, the risk of suffering a fatal pulmonary embolism increased by 40%.
Pulmonary Embolism Diagram
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot forms somewhere in the body (usually the pelvis or a leg) and migrates to the lungs via blood vessels. Once in the lungs, the blood clot can become trapped in a smaller blood vessel, blocking the flow of blood and potentially causing heart failure.
Changing TV Watching Habits and the Increased Risk of Blood Clots
It’s worth noting that the Japanese study collected data on TV viewing habits in the late ‘80s. At that point, “binge watching” hadn’t become the phenomenon that it is now, although networks were beginning to air marathon reruns of popular shows that made it easy for viewers to consume their favorite TV for hours on end. The way we watch TV has begun to change, and the impact of television on our health may be changing as well.
The habit of binge watching may have increased in the late ‘90s and early 2000s when DVDs with high storage capacity made it easy for consumers to purchase and watch entire TV seasons at a time. Binge watching as we know it today took off in the late 2000s and early 2010s when streaming services like Netflix and an increase in serialized shows began encouraging consumers to devour multiple episodes in one sitting.
In 2016, binge watching is something that the majority of Americans report doing. 70% of US consumers report that they have binge watched at least five episodes of TV at one time, according to a survey from Deloitte. Viewers are especially committed to finishing off full seasons of television: Netflix found that once their subscribers start a show, they finish a season within one week on average.
It’s important to keep in mind that while TV has become incredibly easy to consume in large chunks, too much binge watching can put you at risk for serious health complications, such as a pulmonary embolism. If you often watch multiple episodes of TV at once, consider setting a timer or installing a phone app that reminds you to periodically take breaks from the binge watching to decrease your risk of health complications. Standing up every 20 minutes—even if you don’t walk around—can help decrease your likelihood of health problems associated with being sedentary for too long.