You might guess that spending a lot of time watching television is not good for you, but you might not realize that too much TV is bad for your health. On average, 80 percent of Americans watch about 3.5 hours of television every day. A number of studies link television viewing and poor health. A new study from the National Cancer Institute builds on previous research, finding that increased hours of television viewing per day also increases the risk of most major causes of death.
The researchers analyzed data about the television viewing habits of more than 221,000 adults aged 50 to 71. The adults were free of chronic diseases at the outset of the study. The researchers controlled for health-related factors like alcohol intake and smoking.
Watching more television was linked with an increased mortality risk from multiple diseases. The research team confirmed that watching television was associated with a higher mortality risk from cancer and heart disease. They discovered that watching television was also connected to an increased mortality risk from diabetes, influenza, Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease. In other words, moving around is crucial for overall physical health.
The risk increased for people who watched three or more hours of television each day. Those who reported watching three to four hours of television per day were 15 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who watched less than one hour of television per day. People who watched seven or more hours per day had an even greater risk: they were 47 percent more likely to die during the study period. The effects were present in active and inactive individuals.
“We know that television viewing is the most prevalent leisure-time sedentary behavior and our working hypothesis is that it is an indicator of overall physical inactivity. In this context, our results fit within a growing body of research indicating that too much sitting can have many different adverse health effects,” stated lead investigator Sara Keadle, Ph.D., MPH, Cancer Prevention Fellow at the Naitonal Cancer Institute.
The study is important because older adults watch more television than any demographic in the United States. The researchers state that, although the findings need to be replicated in other studies, the research offers clues that can help scientists understand the relationship between sedentary behavior and health.
This research is published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
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