Watching Television Shortens Lifespan Study Finds; Couch Potatoes Risk Of Needing Long Term Care

You won’t see this tidbit of new research on tonight’s evening news but watching television for an average of six hours a day could shorten the viewer’s life expectancy by almost five years. 

According to research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine watching television equates with other risky behaviors such as smoking and lack of exercise. 

The medical experts explained that sedentary behavior is associated with a higher risk of death, particularly from heart attack or stroke.   They used previously published data on the relationship between viewing time and death from analyses of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study to arrive at the lifetime risk of TV watching. 

Using a national survey that involved more than 11,000 adults aged 25 or older, the researchers quizzed the participants about the total amount of time they had spent in the previous week watching TV or videos. 

In 2008 the authors estimated that adults aged 25 and older watched 9.8 billion hours of TV, which led them to calculate that every single hour of TV watched after the age of 25 shortened the viewer’s life expectancy by just under 22 minutes. 

Based on these figures, and expected deaths from all causes, the authors calculated that an individual who spends a lifetime average of six hours a day watching TV can expect to live just under five fewer years than someone who does not watch TV. 

“The impact compares with the impact of other well known lifestyle factors on the risk of death from cardiovascular disease after the age of 50,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  “Long term care insurers may have to start asking about television watching habits to see who is most likely to need live a long life and need long-term care.” 

Other research has shown that lifelong smoking is associated with the shortening of life expectancy by more than 4 years after the age of 50, with the average loss of life from one cigarette calculated to be 11 minutes — equivalent to half an hour of TV watching, according to the researchers’ risk framework.

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