Binge-watching TV and other 'guilty pleasures' are as valuable as seeing family and friends, says study
If binge-watching your favorite television show is giving you life during the coronavirus pandemic, keep at it. According to a small new study, “guilty pleasures” like comfort food, TV shows and celebrity gossip are solid stand-ins for spending time with friends and family.
The study of 173 ethnically-diverse people was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic infected more than 2.5 million people globally, but the University of Buffalo, SUNY researchers say their findings are pertinent as people self-quarantine at home and hold virtual happy hours or dinner parties.
“There’s a stigma around non-traditional social strategies, long regarded as ‘social surrogates’ and ‘worst-cased scenarios,’” study co-author and UB graduate Elaine Paravati, tells Yahoo Life. “But we call them symbolic social bonds that can help you thrive socially and psychologically.”
How people meet their social needs through routes that are traditional (spending time with friends) and non-traditional (reading books, watching movies) has been studied before. But thus far, no one has measured how both methods work together to enhance wellbeing and quality of life. The study, published this month in the journal Self and Identity, used self-reported data from subjects and a "social fuel tank” measurement created by the researchers to ascertain the effectiveness of each social strategy.
Related video: 10 hidden gems to stream on Disney+ right now
“The combination of both strategies predicts the best outcomes in regard to wellbeing and fulfillment,” Paravati tells Yahoo Life. “But activities like watching TV or reading add an extra layer of vibrancy and pizazz, making people feel as though life is more purposeful.” Reading Hollywood gossip, she says, can broaden a sense of connection if you can really relate to a particular celebrity. Or making Mexican food can reimagine Taco Tuesdays with friends.
The authors elaborated in their study, “Although this one nonsigniﬁcant eﬀect should be interpreted with caution, it might suggest that although both traditional and nontraditional social strategies can enhance an individual’s life, nontraditional strategies seem to add extra meaning and depth to the human experience.”
The research is useful in how we understand mental health outcomes during quarantine, says Paravati, who adds, “We want everyone to get through the pandemic.” And if that means re-watching Tiger King? So it shall be.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
How to maintain your physical and mental health during the pandemic
Taking care of a loved one with COVID-19? Here’s how to stay healthy
Q&A with Dr. Kavita Patel: How to keep your family safe and maintain your mental health
Read more from Yahoo Life:
What are 'COVID toes' and why are dermatologists seeing an 'epidemic' of them in kids?
Coronavirus Q&A with Dr. Kavita Patel: Social distancing, handling packages and more
'Be the Light': The inspirational reason high schools nationwide are burning stadium lights during the coronavirus pandemic
Want daily wellness, lifestyle and parenting news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.