Prolonged TV viewing has now been linked to the top eight leading causes of death in America. Eighty percent of Americans watch 3.5 hours of television a day. Previous research has linked long hours of TV watching with poor vision. In the latest study researchers aimed to uncover the association between TV watching hours and an increased risk of death from all major causes.
Ninety-two percent of Americans have a television in their home and spend more than half of their leisure-time watching TV, rather than partaking in physical activity. Previous research linked TV watching with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute examined 221,000 individuals aged 50 to 71 without any chronic illnesses. Not only did the researchers confirm that TV watching could increase death from cancer and cardiovascular disease, but they also found that it increased the risk of diabetes, pneumonia, Parkinson’s disease and liver disease.
Lead investigator, Dr. Sarah Keadle, said, “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.”
Dr. Keadle suggests that although an association has been made, additional research must take place to replicate the results. She added, “Our study has generated new clues about the role of sedentary behavior and health and we hope that it will spur additional research.”
Individuals who watched three to four hours of TV a day had a 15 percent increased risk in death by all causes – this compared to those who watched one hour or less. Those who watched seven or more hours of TV increased their risk of death from all causes by 47 percent. Other factors taken into consideration that may contribute to the increase of death were smoking habits, alcohol consumption, health status of the population and caloric intake. Even after taking into account all these factors, the association remained the same.
Dr. Keadle explained another surprising find, “Although we found that exercise did not fully eliminate risks associated with prolonged television viewing, certainly for those who want to reduce their sedentary television viewing, exercise should be the first choice to replace that previously inactive time.”
Although more research is required in regards to the association of TV watching and risk of death, Dr. Keadle concluded, “Older adults watch the most TV of any demographic group in the U.S. Given the increasing age of the population, the high prevalence of TV viewing in leisure time, and the broad range of mortality outcomes for which risk appears to be increased, prolonged TV viewing may be a more important target for public health intervention than previously recognized.”