Grad student turns her focus to binge-watching TV

December 14, 2015 | News, Research, UToday
By Brandi Barhite

Monita Karmakar, a doctoral student in health education at The University of Toledo, can easily get lost in “her shows.”

“My favorites are ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Doctor Who,’ but I love to watch ‘Lost’ over and over again,” she said and laughed. “I watch every single episode every summer. It is what I do during my summer break to unwind and relax.”

Doctoral student Monita Karmakar is investigating the effects of binge-watching on college students.

Doctoral student Monita Karmakar is investigating the effects of binge-watching on college students.

Her personal interest in binge-watching sparked an interest in studying the effects of hour after hour of television watching, which is made easier because of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. Gone are the days of waiting for the next episode.

Karmakar and her UT colleague, Jessica Kruger, are working with collaborators from Montana State University and Utah State University on a project exploring binge-watching habits in college students. The study focuses on the impact that binge-watching has on the physical and mental health of college students.

Karmakar and Kruger have collected the data and are waiting for the Institutional Review Board to approve the sharing of the data among the universities. Soon, they will analyze the trends.

This newest study comes after Karmakar received national attention for her research that linked binge-watching television to higher levels of anxiety, depression and stress.

The findings, which were based on an online survey of 406 adults, revealed that binge-watching is an addictive behavior that can be correlated to a person’s mental health.

Karmakar presented this information in November at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, telling the audience that television and video viewing is a common sedentary behavior — and sedentary behaviors increase the risk for many chronic conditions and depression.

“Those who are depressed are more likely to binge-watch, but are they watching because they are depressed, or is the binge-watching causing depression?” Karmakar said. “This was just an exploratory study, so we are trying to delve deeper into the topic; however, we did find that anxiety and stress were significantly elevated among those who self-identified as binge-watchers.”

Karmakar said 35 percent of survey-takers identified as binge-watchers with most defining that as two to five hours of continuous TV viewing.

She believes her current study will be even more telling because college students are known for binge-watching TV.

“I am guilty of it myself,” she said. “My research is showing me that I need to cut down on my TV viewing. Everything in moderation is my takeaway lesson.”

But what about ‘Lost’?

“I will probably watch it this summer,” Karmakar said and laughed.

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