Idle TV watching is a common pastime of Americans, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which cites the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), the average American watches 2.8 hours of television per day. While some forms of television can captivate your attention and get your mind stimulated, a new study found that women who watch boring television eat more.
The study by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden arrived at this conclusion after studying the snacking habits of 18 women while they watched two different types of television programs. There were two programs that were shown — one was an engaging Swedish comedy show while the other was a “boring” art lecture. To get a control point, the researchers also had women read text on insects living in Sweden.
Their findings were astounding. Women who watched the boring television program consumed 52 percent more food than those who watched the comedy. A similar trend was found when comparing food consumption between the engaging TV show and the boring text, as women ate 35 percent less food when watching the comedy than when reading about the insects.
“At very low levels of engagement, you kind of eat to engage yourself because you’re bored,” says Aner Tal, a research associate at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, to TIME magazine. “It might also have to do with the pacing.”
The findings of the Swedish researchers are consistent with those from a report by the Eunice Kennedy Shrive National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which found looked at television and food consumption habits in children. Published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the researchers found that, “For every hour of television children watch, they are 8 percent less likely to eat fruit every day, 18 percent more likely to eat candy, and 16 percent more likely to eat fast food.”