One of the greatest benefits of having Netflix (or any video streaming service for that matter), is being able to binge-watch your favorite series for hours on end. However, a recent study from Japan has found that while binge-watching is great for entertainment, doing so can wreak havoc on our health.
The origins of this study date back to 1988 (and over the span of two years), when researchers asked more than 80,000 people in Japan between the ages of 40 and 79 how much TV they watched every day. From there, they tracked how many of those interviewees died from a pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in the lung — over the following 19 years and checked how many hours of TV that person told them he or she watched all those years ago.
Published in the current issue of the journal Circulation, the results of the study revealed that 59 interviewees died of pulmonary embolism, and such deaths increased by 70 percent among those who watched television between 2.5 and 4.9 hours a day compared to those who watched less than 2.5 hours each day. Furthermore, the risk of such deaths increased by 40 percent for each additional 2 hours and went up by two and a half times the base amount for those who watched television for at least 5 hours a day.
To put it simply, the more you watch television each day, the more likely you are to die from a blood clot forming in your lung.
While interesting news no matter how you see it, there are two important factors to consider when looking at the results. First of all, as Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine's Dr. Toru Shirakawa notes, other research has found that Americans watch more television than Japanese adults, which means that while the risk factors and percentages aren't likely to change, Americans are far more likely to be susceptible to them because of their watching habits.
Second, as mentioned before, these people were interviewed between 1988 and 1990 — an era when binge-watching through online services such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video didn't even exist. Even worse, not only is binge-watching a thing now, the practice is immensely popular, so much so that unexpected outages of streaming services prompt quite a bit of confusion and panic whenever they occur.
"Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term 'binge watching' to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programs in one sitting has become popular," Shirakawa said in a news release. "This popularity may reflect a rapidly growing habit."
This isn't the first study that has examined the link between TV and mortality. In 2014 a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association detailed how a research team from the University of Navarra in Spain followed 13,284 university graduates and found that due to excessive television watching, 97 people had died over the course of an average of around eight years.
Interestingly enough, the results of that study didn't find an increase in mortality risk due to increased use of computers.
In the meantime, while the researchers do say that more research to help determine the health risks from these technologies needs to be done, there is one easy way to reduce your chances of a clot, even if you binge-watch: exercise.
"After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, walk around, or while you're watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles for 5 minutes," said study co-author Dr. Hiroyasu Iso.