Is Watching TV Shortening Our Lives?

A new Australian study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that watching TV is taking years off of our lives. Or at least it might be. Here’s the scoop…

Every hour of TV you watch may decrease your life span by 22 minutes.
Data about the TV viewing habits and physical health from 11,000 Australians age 25 and over was analyzed for the study. Based on this information and standard life expectancy statistics, researchers concluded that the more TV participants watched, the shorter their life expectancy—21.8 minutes shorter, to be precise, for every hour watched.

Heavy TV viewing could mean a significantly shorter life.
Study participants who watched six hours of TV a day or more (the top 1%), were found to have decreased life expectancy by 4.8%. Such statistics put TV watching on par with smoking as a lethal activity; research has determined that every cigarette decreases one’s life expectancy by 11 minutes, and being a smoker shaves four years off of one’s life expectancy after 50.

But is watching TV really the problem? Or is it how we watch TV?
That’s a question that hasn’t been definitively answered. When we watch TV, we’re typically at our most sedentary: sitting or lying down, our bodies at rest, often for long periods of time. We also tend to eat while we watch, frequently snacking on unhealthy foods. Studies have shown a direct relationship between inactivity and life expectancy, but in the case of TV viewing, there is a question of correlation vs. causation.

So should we stop watching TV?
Suggesting we all unplug our TVs for good would be an extreme reaction to the research–and an unrealistic one at that. The study does serve as a wake-up call, however, about how our habits and the ways we choose to spend our time may affect our health. Or maybe it’s time to start looking at our favorite shows differently. Is America’s Got Talent really worth 22 minutes of your life? Or would you rather shave it off for Glee?


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