August 15, 2011
6 Hours Per Day TV Cuts 5 Years Off Life Expectancy?

Television as mass murdering machine.

Watching TV for an average of six hours a day could shorten the viewer's life expectancy by almost five years, indicates research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The impact rivals that of other well known behavioural risk factors, such as smoking and lack of exercise, the study suggests.

Sedentary behaviour - as distinct from too little exercise - is associated with a higher risk of death, particularly from heart attack or stroke. Watching TV accounts for a substantial amount of sedentary activity, but its impact on life expectancy has not been assessed, say the authors.

Want to watch an hour TV show? That'll cost you 22 minutes of life. This is like a Twilight Zone episode where the devil makes a deal with someone. Free cable with 500 channels in exchange for your soul.

In 2008 the authors estimated that Australian 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.

You could pedal in place while you watch your favorite TV shows. But exercise while watching TV seems like too much a distraction. I gave up TV in large part to do more reading. I go for walks while reading books on a Kindle (gotta notice street crossings). But that only works when it is light out and not raining and it only works for what one has on an e-reader. It seems hard to integrate exercise with a modern lifestyle.

Also see Television Watchers Die Sooner.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 August 15 10:09 PM  Aging Lifestyle Studies

Kudzu Bob said at August 15, 2011 10:41 PM:

After 9/11 I found myself obsessively watching the news, and as a mental health measure got rid of my television. That is one decision that I will never regret.

As for TV addicts shortening their lifespans, their noble sacrifice will help balance the Social Security and Medicare budgets. Anyhow, will they really be missed all that much?

WJ said at August 15, 2011 11:13 PM:

"You could pedal in place while you watch your favorite TV shows. But exercise while watching TV seems like too much a distraction."

Lately about half the time I'm watching television or movies I'm exercising, too (unless I'm with company, of course). If you have room you can even vary the routine by getting multiple machines - bike, treadmill, stairclimber, rower, etc. I could imagine some great social engineering experiments that reward couch potatoes for exercising at even low levels while watching the tube.

PacRim Jim said at August 15, 2011 11:43 PM:

This doesn't just apply to TVs. Anyone who sits starting at a screen for many hours a day is equally susceptible to chronic disease. This means you video game and computer addicts, too.

spindizzy said at August 16, 2011 3:36 AM:

"every single hour of TV watched after the age of 25 shortened the viewer's life expectancy by just under 22 minutes"

The 5 years figure seems to be a back-of-the-envelope calculation using this not-terribly-plausible linear relationship.

It hardly inspires confidence that the authors have properly accounted for the endless number of confounding variables like socioeconomic status, prior health conditions etc.

Not that I doubt the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, but this study doesn't look to add much besides the usual media-whoring.

Black Death said at August 16, 2011 6:30 AM:

I have an HDTV set up in front of my elliptical treadmill, and watching old movies or time-shifted stuff from one of the learning channels really makes the miles fly by. Other than the Weather Channel and time-shifted Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, that's about the limit of my TV watching. The vast majority of the programs are garbage, and no time for it anyway.

Nick G said at August 16, 2011 3:23 PM:


Yes, media reporting of research, and the research itself, is terrible. I just saw a study which found a correlation between Vitamin D and skin cancer which didn't adjust for sun exposure!!!

LAG said at August 18, 2011 12:17 PM:

I with Black Death, but I'm confused now how to count the remaining years of life I have coming. I exercise 15 minutes a day, but I watch an hour of news (does that count like a sitcom?) every day except Saturday. Can someone help me with the BS math associated with this non-information?

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