Watching a whole season of Game of Thrones in one sitting may seem like a perfectly good way to spend your time. But new research suggests this behavior could be a sign of something more serious than a deep-rooted concern for infatuation with Jon Snow.
Researchers asked 316 18- to 20-year-olds about their regular TV-show watching and binge-watching habits. Then, they used a questionnaire to assess people's loneliness, depression, and ability to control the urge to watch TV.
Seventy-five percent of participants admitted to binge-watching, or watching two to six episodes of a single TV series in one sitting. More people watched on weekends than weekdays, and a vast majority of people watched by themselves. Most binge-watchers (75 percent) tapped out after one to three hours of TV, while 13.5 percent watched up to five hours. Just five people reported watching seven hours (or more!).
While binge-watchers favored romantic comedies and sitcoms, the top 10 binge-watched shows were dramas with ongoing stories that continue from season to season, like Orange Is the New Black, Grey's Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Desperate Housewives, and Breaking Bad (which were the top five shows people binge-watched most recently).
Researchers noticed some interesting similarities among people who watched the most episodes at once: They were lonelier, sadder, and had less self-control (i.e., the ability to step away from the the TV) than people who didn't binge-watch at all.
It makes sense that people who have less control are more likely to fly through a whole series in one sitting. But the data doesn't prove that binge-watching makes you depressed or lonely, or makes you lose control. It simply identifies an association between a habit (binge-watching) and the temperaments of people who do it. In other words, people who are kind of lonely or sad might revel in watching TV for long periods of time. And if common sense (or experience) is any indication, losing yourself in a good show may even make you feel better.
On the flip side, the study authors warn that people who feel particularly lonely, depressed, and out of control may be susceptible to addictive TV-watching, which could trigger guilt about watching too much TV at once and suck up so much time that you end up feeling more socially detached—and worse overall.
So long as your binge-watching doesn't muster up those feelings or prevent you from doing social stuff, it won't kill you to veg out in front of the TV every once in a while— especially if you do it with friends.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.