Remember when you were a kid and the only time that you could watch cartoons was on Saturday morning? Or if lucky enough, you got to stay up on the weekend to watch a new episode of your favorite television show.
But times have changed. And so has television.
Today it’s not uncommon for children and adults to watch anywhere from three to six hours of TV a day. Is it harmful to watch this much? Yes.
A new study published in the Journal of American Heart Association suggests that the more TV you watch, the more likely you are to die an early death.
For 8 years, researchers at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, followed more than 13,000 college graduates with an average age of 37. They asked the participants questions about their activities such as watching TV, working on a computer and driving. But by the end of the study, 97 of the participants had died. Their data led them to the surprising conclusion that there is a connection between watching television and mortality.
“Television viewing is a major sedentary behavior and there is an increasing trend toward all types of sedentary behaviors,” said Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, the study’s author. “Our findings are consistent with a range of previous studies where time spent watching television was linked to mortality.”
Here’s what the study also found:
- People who watch more than three hours of TV a day are twice as likely to die an early death compared to those who watch one hour or less.
- Activities such as sitting and driving were not linked to an early death.
The researchers believe that because watching television is so sedentary, too much can actually shorten your life. But the study may come as a surprise to many, considering that other activities such as working on a computer or driving are also fairly sedentary.
“We think that computer use or driving are not so sedentary because, in fact, you are using your muscles to move your hands, you have muscle tension and stress,” Martinez-Gonzalez told Fox News. “[Also], if you are working with the computer or driving, you feel responsible for what you are doing, whereas if you are watching television you have no responsibility for what’s going on whatsoever.”
Another factor to consider is that television is often watched in isolation, which may also be connected to an early death.
“The other reason we think television watching may be associated with a higher mortality rate is a lot of time watching television every day could be a marker of isolation, being a lonely person with very little social support,” Martinez-Gonzalez said. “This is a proxy for isolation. So if you have low social support, your mortality risk is higher many times.”
Martinez-Gonzalez said it’s OK to watch television, just as long as it’s done in moderation.
“There is nothing bad in watching television, nothing wrong, unless you spend four or five hours a day,” Martinez-Gonzalez said. “In so far as you watch television for a while, two to two-and-a-half hours a day, this is perfect, no association, no significant [increase in] risk for those categories. Only when there are three or more hours a day.”
Do you agree that watching too much television can shorten your life? Write your response in the comments below.