Does Streaming Help or Hurt Your Mental Health?
Binge-watching streamable movies, documentaries, television programs, and even sporting events is somewhat of a beloved pastime. There’s something comforting about curling up with a favorite streaming service and consuming immediately-available television programming, music, or video game play.
In moderation, streaming services offer on-demand content for stress relief, passive entertainment, and the opportunity to bond with other viewers. Unchecked, these same streaming services can pose serious mental health concerns. Negative mental health effects of excessive binge-watching can include turbulent moods, anxiety, and addictive behavior.
Effects of Binge-Watching
Binge-watching typically implies streaming two-to-six episodes of a television series all at once, usually for hours at a time. Studies identify heavy binge-watching habits as an unhealthy behavior, one which has drawn comparisons to binge drinking and other addictive behaviors. Binge-watching activities also typically occur in the evening, and can cause viewers to prioritize screen time over healthy sleep routines.
While excessive television binge-watching can lead to negative consequences, streaming habits in moderation can also yield significant benefits. Disciplined streaming habits can allow consumers to enjoy the benefits of streamed content, while excessive binge-watching often precedes mental health issues. Consult the below details for more information on the mental health effects — positive and negative — that streaming can impose.
As long as the habit is practiced appropriately, streaming your favorite television shows or live sporting events offers a positive, relaxing experience. The latest in 5G network availability also means that you can catch your favorite channels, whether you’re streaming from home or on the go. And after a difficult day, enjoying recorded entertainment at your fingertips is a great way to mentally unwind and embrace a calmer state of mind.
Popular streaming services also allow viewers to enjoy high-quality content from producers prioritizing equal representation. Perhaps more than mainstream television and box office blockbusters, streaming content producers are actively contributing to diversity and inclusivity in the media they produce. Increased inclusion provides exceptional actors from marginalized communities the chance to shine and share their talents with the world.
Of course, binge-watching video content is also associated with various negative effects on mental health. Depression and anxiety headline an unhealthy list of potential binge-watching consequences that can result from excessive streaming. The average American ages 18 and older consumes, on average, more than four hours of television per day, placing them at risk for dopamine depravity. This can lead viewers to experience less satisfaction from their favorite, everyday activities, sometimes replaced by mental numbness.
Individuals and families looking to avoid these negative mental health consequences should limit screen time to healthy per-day amounts. Children should be limited to even stricter per-day screen time caps: 60 minutes of high-quality television programming allows youth to experience the educational benefits that television programming can offer, without risking mental clarity.
Effects of Music Streaming
Music streaming occurs any time songs are played straight from Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and other top-ranked music streaming services. Especially for individuals facing mental health challenges, music can provide mood-regulating effects beneficial for self-awareness. Music streaming can result in positive benefits or negative consequences depending on the songs streamed, length of streaming, music volume, and other factors.
Streaming appropriate music at controlled volumes can offer a wide variety of benefits to even the casual listener. In the same way that healthcare professionals can prescribe music for its therapeutic benefits, listeners can achieve mental health benefits that often include memory retention, cognitive functionality, and enhanced attention spans. Whether you stream your favorite songs during a workout, while you study, as you prepare a meal, or simply during personal relaxation time, music helps listeners escape into a rhythm and embrace the lyrics.
Most negative effects of music streaming are typically associated with excessive volume or inappropriate song content. Nerve damage, permanent hearing loss, damaged hair cells, even structural ear damage can result from excessive exposure to loud music. Avoid these negative consequences by maintaining acceptable volume levels on streaming music. In addition, songs with inappropriate content can pose a risk to mental health; songs that reference explicit violence can contribute to aggressive feelings and overtly violent behavior.
Effects of Video Game Streaming
Video game streaming — when an amateur or professional gamer broadcasting a live feed of them playing a popular video game — is quickly gaining popularity. Anyone, regardless of skill level, can stream themselves playing a video game over any number of popular streaming platforms. Appropriate video game use can benefit mental health, making video game streaming a healthy way to socialize, embrace teamwork, and improve skills.
Video game streaming can benefit both viewers and streamers. Viewers can improve skills and potentially achieve rewarding careers playing video games on a professional scale. Even amateur gamers can build audiences while streaming their gameplay online, or subscribe to other content creators and their communities. Video game streaming across all skill levels helps streamers and viewers alike join online communities, gain visibility, and increase well-being.
Video game streaming can also impact mental and physical health. Professional gamers can face health risks sometimes on par with paid athletes, issues ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to back pain. Individuals accustomed, or expected, to release hours of new streamed video game content each day can experience burnout over time, even losing their love for video games as the industry becomes more of a job and less of a passion.
Individuals who excessively stream video games can also experience health consequences. If the time spent streaming video games is disproportionate to time spent away from streaming services, viewers may experience depression, weight gain, and other negative effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle.
Avoiding many of the negative mental health consequences of video game streaming is often simple: maintain a routine that includes regular physical exercise. Balancing streaming services with other engaging activities can make both screen time and personal time respectively more enjoyable, while preventing negative health consequences.