herald

Thursday 24 August 2017

box sets are bad for your body... and mind mindwhat about your mind?

We've all done it. It's raining outside, or last night was a heavy one, so it's time to hunker down on the couch, settle into your personally-crafted couch grooves, press 'play', and not move for at least four hours.

Shows like Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Game of Thrones are regularly binge-watched the length and breadth of the country.

It's been over 25 years since Harvard researchers discovered a link between children's TV time and obesity. Over time, they have established that two hours of television per day is enough for children.

But let's not think of the children, here. This is about adults, too, as more and more of us spend entire days watching entire series of shows that previously we'd have seen once a week over a few months.

In one study of 50,000 women, for every two hours the women spent watching TV per day, they had a 23pc higher risk of becoming obese and a 14pc higher risk of developing diabetes.

According to the Harvard researchers, TV-watching could promote obesity in several ways: displacing time for physical activity; promoting poor diets; giving more opportunities for unhealthy snacking (during TV viewing); and even by interfering with sleep.

A pilot study carried out with 36 men and women suggests that using a device to digitally 'lock out' their television after two hours could help people to lose weight.

And, to be fair, binge-watching box sets or even internet downloads saves you seeing the ads for junk food. But the other factors are still a problem.

ADDICTION

My problem, however, is nothing to do with obesity. It's what goes on inside your head that I'd be more concerned about.

Very few of us are watching the likes of the Vicar of Dibley on box set. The shows that bring us to the point of addiction are about bad people doing bad things to other bad people. The amoral politicians of House of Cards, the utterly psychopathic Walt and Jesse in Breaking Bad, and the chaotic brutality of Game of Thrones… none of them are likely to make you better disposed towards your fellow man, are they?

Many's the night I've staggered upstairs to bed with a head full of Starks and Targaryens and almost sworn I saw a white walker on the road outside.

While I wait for Harvard to catch up, here's my theory: we get sucked in. It's impossible not to.

The minute, after a weekend of Orange is the New Black, that you start seeing everyone bunching together in ethnic groups, wonder which of your colleagues will stab you first, and start calling everybody by their surname, it's time to cut yourself off.

But you needn't go cold turkey. If you're looking for unadulterated misery, unpleasant characters and a willingness to stab your fellow man in the back, there's always the Oireachtas Report. And the best part is, it's free.

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