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NIMHANS case study on binge-watching among elderly highlights need to promote behavioural strategies

‘A relatively sedentary way of life and its associated psychological factors among the elderly can make them vulnerable to technology misuse’

January 21, 2023 08:51 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 09:55 am IST - Bengaluru

The association of binge-watching with loneliness and anxiety further contributes to increased binge-watching to overcome negative mood states.

The association of binge-watching with loneliness and anxiety further contributes to increased binge-watching to overcome negative mood states. | Photo Credit: iStock

A NIMHANS case study published in the Journal of Geriatric Mental Health has provided insights into the motives of the elderly for binge-watching. It highlights the need to promote behavioural strategies for strengthening the healthy use of technology among the elderly, allowing them to age healthily with advancing technologies.

The Journal of Geriatric Mental Health is an official publication of the Indian Association of Geriatric Mental Health. The case study titled “Understanding geriatric binge-watching from a case-based perspective” published on January 20 illustrates the mediating role of psychological factors in binge-watching among the elderly as well as seeking consultation for its management.

Sedentary lifestyle

Manoj Kumar Sharma, Professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology at NIMHANS, who is the lead author of the paper, told The Hindu that the relatively sedentary way of life and its associated psychological factors among the elderly can make them vulnerable to technology misuse and potential problematic binge-watching.

Motivation factor

Dr. Sharma, who also heads the Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) Clinic at NIMHANS, said he has seen three such cases.

“In this paper, we describe the case of a 72-year-old male professional who sought help to manage problematic binge-watching of teleseries. The clinical evaluation highlighted the mediating role of motivation factors (need for self-absorbing activities, compensatory motivation to manage low mood and loneliness) in binge-watching.”

The association of binge-watching with loneliness and anxiety further contributes to increased binge-watching to overcome negative mood states, he said.

After psychotherapy sessions, which also involved his wife for couple-coping enhancement, he showed a reduction in engagement with online self-absorbing activities and improvement in marital life, Dr. Sharma said.

“This case study provides insights into the motives of the elderly for binge-watching and highlights the need to promote behavioural strategies for strengthening the healthy use of technology among the elderly, allowing them to age healthily with advancing technologies,” he said.

A new phenomenon

Pointing out that binge-watching is defined as watching two to six episodes of the same TV show in one sitting, the doctor said it was a relatively new phenomenon owing to the rising number of over-the-top or video-on-demand platforms, increasingly observed in adolescents and young adults.

A similar trend has also been observed among adults who use binge-watching as a method of distraction from daily stressors of life, to promote a feeling of well-being and to overcome loneliness. Technology has become an important modality to fulfill interpersonal and social needs among the elderly. However, the excessive use of technology can further deepen social isolation among the elderly and this phenomenon remains unexplored, Dr. Sharma said.

Health consequences

Dr. Sharma said there was a great potential for binge-watching to become an addictive behaviour if used regularly for instant gratification of hedonistic needs or to regulate emotions as a maladaptive coping. In addition, binge-watching is associated with adverse health consequences, especially those related to noncommunicable diseases. He underlined the need for research on this phenomenon for developing appropriate strategies to promote healthy aging with advancing technologies.

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