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Study: Binge-Watching TV Series May Reflect Depression, Loneliness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Are you one of those people who like to binge-watch television shows?

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reported Friday, a new study claims those who sit down for all-day, all-night TV marathons are among the most depressed and lonely.

Thanks to Netflix, the Internet, DVD box sets and all other ways to watch entire seasons of shows in one sitting, many of us now spend hours in front of a screen – or sometimes even entire days.

The reasons vary.

"I hear about good shows late, and it's tough to catch up on them," said Henry Vallejo of Teaneck, New Jersey.

"It's like a guilty pleasure," a woman said.

But a new study said people who binge-watch might be among the most depressed and lonely. Admitted binge-watchers did not buy it.

"Not true," one woman said. "Not true at all."

"Absolutely," quipped Greg Hilton of Manhattan "I'm married with two kids and I'm lonely and depressed."

"Lonely not -- because my wife and I binge-watch together," added Vallejo.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin surveyed 316 people between the ages of 18 and 29 about their TV viewing habits.

Those people were also asked how frequently they experienced feelings of depression and loneliness. People who reported more feelings of depression and loneliness tended to watch more television.

No one who spoke to CBS2 reported having those feelings, and psychologist Dr. Harris Straytner said the study seemed to be a bit of a stretch.

"If you overeat, you could be depressed. If you undereat, you could be depressed. If you oversleep, you could be depressed. If you're not sleeping, you could be depressed," Straytner said.

On a positive note, researchers did point out that binge-watching can also serve as a way to bond with others. Straytner agreed.

"If it's snowing out or if it's rainy, what great fun to be in bed with your wife or with your girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever, and binge-watch," he said.

There does come a point when something is too much, and extreme binge-watching can be a sign of a more serious problem. Straytner cites a patient he treated years ago.

"To the point where they weren't showering, they weren't eating, they weren't socializing," he said.

The message is that everything – including that series that you've just got to see – should be enjoyed in moderation.

Researchers classify binge-watching as viewing between two and six episodes in one sitting. Prolonged TV viewing can also impact physical health, researchers said, putting people at risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

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