I Am A Love Island Addict. Here’s Why I Won’t Be Watching This Year

Longtime fan Emily Baker is no longer confident that Love Island is good for her own mental health – or that of those on screen

Love Island 2019

by Emily Baker |
Updated on

Around this time of year, every year for the last four, I have been readying myself. As the nation dusts off the plastic Prosecco glasses and settles in for another round of Love Island, I am usually right beside them on the sofa: hooked on ITV2 like 3.6million other Brits, desperate to see the 13 attractive singletons entering a Majorcan villa for another nightly drip feed of gossip, scandal and the delightfully silly plummet into newfound love. This year, things are different.

This year I will not be watching. I won’t be tweeting my meme predictions either, or having animated discussions about the show each morning with colleagues, as much as I will miss that. I won’t be watching because I’m not sure I can be completely comfortable following the untimely deaths of two former contestants. And I’m not sure I can be confident it’s good for my own mental health.

Aftercare of contestants has been a huge part of this year’s conversation following the deaths of Sophie Gradon, the show’s first LGBTQ+ participant in the second series who was found dead last year, and Mike Thalassitis, known as ‘Muggy Mike’ while on the third series. He died by suicide earlier this year, just before he was due to start a new chapter and open a restaurant. While neither of their deaths can be neatly blamed on ITV and Love Island, questions of mental health support and sufficient pre-cast screenings were rightly squared at the execs in charge.

For a minute it looked as though the furore would die down in time for the 2019 launch, but the suicide of another man, Steve Dymond, who had appeared on ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show aroused even more suspicion of the channel’s duty of care to the people they invite onto their shows.

But that troubling treatment – and the uneasy residue it leaves behind – is not the only reason I’ll be switching off this year. I feel it’s time to admit to myself that the show also has negative consequences for my own mental health. While watching, I laugh along, smugly distracted from the oscillating drudgery and panic caused by my own cocktail of depression and anxiety. But afterwards a cooling reality – validated dissatisfaction with my body, with my love life, my friendships even. I wind up feeling quietly miserable.

I am guilty as the next for closing up shop everytime someone tries to suggest that endless scrolling on Instagram or TV might be bad for us – yet, early studies into the subject are producing the same results. The research may be in its infancy, but early studies suggest higher levels of depression, anxiety and despondency after a session of binge-watching. Who among us hasn’t felt that grimey film of shame after spending a day in bed watching the same show for 9 hours – or, in this case, every night for weeks on end. And, besides, as an overworrier with an overactive sense of responsibility, investing time to consume the dramas and concerns of 13 strangers, however removed they are from me, is an addition to my mental load that, if I’m honest, I can’t afford.

Then there’s the bikinis – or, rather, the bodies in them – that probe my insecurities. I know I’m not the only one – feminist pressure group Level Up launched a campaign to ban plastic surgery ads during the ad breaks and won after 40% of women aged 18-34 reported Love Island made them feel more conscious about their bodies. And 30% considered going on a diet as a direct result of watching the show. One in ten considered lip fillers, 8% thought about a boob job and 7% looked into getting botox.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t had my eyes shut for every other year I’ve watched. And I’m not asking for other people to join me in avoiding the island this year, or in any way looking down on others for watching. It’s not my intention to knock the show. In fact, I will miss watching it – I’ll miss sharing the funny moments with pals and debating their debatable behaviour, I’ll miss the routine I shared with my housemate as we sat down with a glass of wine each to watch the latest instalment. But the judgements, the mental health hurdles and the shame of watching others struggle? This year, it’s just not worth it for me.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us