Television’s Deadly Impact: How Watching TV Could Kill You

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Americans have long had a love affair with television — a 2012 Nielsen report found that the average American spends 34 hours per week watching live television. No big deal, you say? Consider this: A new study found that adults who watch more than three hours of TV a day is doubling their his or her of premature death.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study looked at the risks associated with sedentary behaviors (e.g., watching TV, spending time on the computer, driving) on 13,284 young graduates. While no associations were discovered with spending time on the computer and driving, the authors of the study did find a correlation between the amounts of time spent watching TV and early death.

Yes, sitting and watching television is a low-risk activity, but the researchers noted that watching TV for hours essentially means you’re not keeping active and perhaps that you are skipping your daily activity for it. The American Heart Association recommends individuals get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. And if you think sedentary behavior cannot be a threat, then know that a recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that people who spend most of their time sitting have up to a 66 percent risk of developing certain types of cancer.

In addition to the risks of sedentary behavior, which may be a reason why watching TV is an indicator of early death, people often eat too much junk food while watching television. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reported that children are more likely to eat unhealthy foods while watching television. Specifically, the researchers found that for every hour of television a child watches, they are 8 percent less likely to eat fruit, 18 percent more likely to eat candy, and 16 percent more likely to eat fast food.

The findings of the recent study echo those of a 2011 study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which discovered that TV watching can result in dying early. More specifically, the study found that for every additional two hours that people spend watching TV, they are at 20 percent more risk of developing type 2 diabetes and are 15 percent more at risk of heart disease.

What’s more, researchers have also found that watching TV messes with your sleep schedule and pattern, which, in turn, gives you a bad night’s sleep, causing chronic health problems. Sleep deprivation is associated with a wide array of issues, including heart disease, depression, and the risk of obesity.

“While the timing of work may not be flexible, giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to promote adequate sleep,” said Dr. Mathias Basner of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology at University of Pennsylvania to The Telegraph. “According to our results, watching less television in the evening and postponing work start time in the morning appear to be the candidate behavioral changes for achieving additional sleep and reducing chronic sleep debt.”

And it’s not just physical health — watching television can leave you emotionally distressed. A 2011 report suggested that people get emotionally invested with the lives of fictional characters and are impacted severely when they lose their favorite TV shows.

“While some participants felt real distress at the loss of their favorite TV shows, the distress is not comparable to the distress that comes from real breakups,” said study co-author Emily Moyer-Guse, an assistant professor of communications at Ohio State University, in a university news release. “There are some aspects of relationships with TV characters that may be comparable to real relationships, but the intensity is generally much lower.”

With all the recent studies revealing the adverse effects of watching television, perhaps it is time to turn off that remote and reconsider before binge-watching Breaking Bad.

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