Binge-Watching Netflix Can Actually KILL You, Says Science

Photo: WeHeartIt

Put down the remote and back away slowly.

Television is so good these days, and it's always great to catch up on your favorite shows by binge-watching. You can sit on your couch with snacks in front of you, and blissfully watch episode after episode until you're bleary eyed, exhausted ... and happy.

Remember this year when they released the entire third season of Orange is the New Black a day early? It was like a gift from Netflix, and you were practically required to watch it all that weekend before anyone could spoil it for you.

And I'll admit it, it sometimes feels like an accomplishment to be able to say, "I watched the entire first season of Daredevil in two days." We're all stressed, and watching a quality show like Pretty Little Liars can be relaxing.

Binge-watching is an activity you can do alone, or with a significant other, as it's an amazingly cheap date. But unfortunately, science has come up with a binge buzzkill. 

In a recent study presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2015 conference in London, researchers found that prolonged television watchers have a higher risk of pulmonary embolism.

Mr. Toru Shirakawa, a public health research fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Osaka University, and his colleagues, looked to discover the link between extended television watching and fatal pulmonary embolism.

"The association between prolonged sitting and pulmonary embolism was first reported among air raid shelter users in London during World War II," said Mr. Shirakawa during his presentation. "Nowadays, a long haul flight in an economy class seat is a well known cause of pulmonary embolism that is called economy class syndrome.

Pulmonary embolism is a serious, sometimes fatal, lung-related vascular disease characterized by sudden onset of symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. The disease is caused by obstruction of the pulmonary arteries by blood clots, generally formed in the leg vessels. Risk factors include cancer, prolonged bed rest or sitting, and oral conception use," he continued.

Shirakawa's 18-year study included over 86,000 participants, both men and women, aged 40 to 79, who were tracked until 2009. The participants had previously completed a self-administered questionnaire, including information about the average amount of TV they watched per day.

The length of TV watching was divided into three groups: less than 2.5 hours, 2.5 to 4.9 hours, and 5 or more hours a day.

Risk of death from pulmonary embolism, according to length of television watching, was calculated after adjusting for age, gender, history of high blood pressure, diabetes, smoker or non-smoker, alcohol consumption, BMI, exercise and walking habits, and menopausal status.

During the follow up period, there were 59 deaths from pulmonary embolism. The researchers found that people whose average television viewing time was more than five hours per day had twice the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism as those who watched an average of less than two and half hours daily.

"We showed that prolonged television viewing may be risky behavior for death from pulmonary embolism. Leg immobility during television viewing may in part explain the finding. To prevent the occurrence of pulmonary embolism, we recommend the same preventive behavior used against economy class syndrome. That is, take a break, stand up, and walk around during the television viewing," said Shirakawa.

Now, instead of binge-watching an entire series, a better idea might be to parcel it out and watch an episode or two at a time. Use it as a reward for taking a hike or going to the gym when you didn't feel like it.

Breaking up the hours you spend watching television by doing something healthy could save your life. No TV show — no matter how good — is worth dying for.


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