Many of us are familiar with the “are you still watching…” line after binge watching our favourite show on Netflix, sitting seven episodes in and having not moved from the spot for the last three hours.
While the unhealthy nature of this lifestyle should be obvious, it is not uncommon. According to HealthifyMe, a mobile health and fitness app, sleep deprivation resulting from binge watching episodes of on-demand television and films is one of the leading causes of the declining physical well-being of India.
Lack of sleep, coupled with poor nutrition and a lack of exercise, are disastrous for a person’s health. These factors are some of the major — and most common — risk factors for a range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. With rates of each of these factors surging in India, it is little wonder that NCD rates have followed suit.
More than 135 million Indians are affected by obesity, according to a study published last year. Meanwhile, research indicates that the condition no longer strictly discriminates along class lines. “We found evidence suggesting it may no longer be considered a ‘diseases of affluence’,” read research published last year in The British Medical Journal, nor is it a disease limited to just India’s cities.
“Over fifty percent of our nutritionists highlighted sleep deprivation due to streaming services as one of the top three social trends that affected the physical well-being of their clients in 2019,” a HealthifyMe spokesperson told Quartz. “Most of the clients binge-watched shows like Game of Thrones, Sacred Games, Friends, Family Man, and Made in Heaven. When it comes to sports, several binge-watched football, especially when the leagues were on.”
Among the major factors impacting health according to the app are long working hours, easy access to packaged food, sleep deprivation resulting from binge watching episodes of television shows via streaming-services, food delivery availability and long commutes. These factors all relate either to work or home life, indicating lifestyle factors as major drivers behind India’s numerous healthcare issues.
Numerous government initiatives have been started in recent months and years to educate and encourage the public to improve on many of these issues. The Eat Right India movement has aimed to provoke awareness of healthy foods, while the Fit India movement has attempted to encourage exercise among the public.
These movements, while well-intentioned, can only do so much in addressing the problem. Across much of India and indeed the rest of the world, access to films and television on demand, coupled with unhealthy food available for delivery at a moments notice has allowed unhealthy lifestyles to become commonplace. Education may go a long way in addressing these issues. However, the surge in NCD rates resulting from these habits is likely to continue long into the future.