New research suggests that too much TV time might shorten your life. But not necessarily for the reason you might think.
The study of more than 13,000 seemingly healthy adults, which was published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that those who spent more than three hours a day watching television had double the risk of early death compared to those who watched less than an hour a day.
“It is a little bit surprising,” said study author Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Navarra, in Pamplona, Spain.
Gonzalez said the study participants were highly educated, slim, active, and their average age was under 40. In addition, anyone with a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, was excluded at the beginning of the study. But over the course of eight years, there were 97 deaths — 19 from heart disease, 46 from cancer, and 32 due to other causes such as accidents and liver or kidney disease.
In fact, for every two additional hours a person spent watching TV, the risk of death from heart disease increased by 44 percent, cancer death risk increased by 21 percent and the risk of premature death increased by 55 percent.
The deaths were caused by spending too much time being sedentary, right?
Researchers then compared the risk of death with time spent in other sedentary activities, such as sitting at a desk. The odd part? No link was found between early death and any of the other common sedentary activities.
So, what caused the premature deaths???
Gonzalez said even the researchers were skeptical about their findings, and began asking additional questions: were the results affected by people who were eating unhealthy snacks while watching TV? What about weight gain? What about increasing age? In an attempt to better understand the results, researchers adjusted their findings and eliminated these factors, but the results only grew stronger and stronger and stronger.
It’s important to note that while this is not the first study to find a link between TV time and premature death, this new research does not prove that prolonged TV watching leads to an early death – it just found a strong connection between the two.
“For me, the major take-home message is to avoid spending many continuous hours watching television, to limit the time to one or at most two hours a day,” Gonzalez said.