Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Ounce of Prevention | The dangers of TV

Published:Tuesday | August 23, 2016 | 12:00 AM

God bless the folks who invented and developed television. Just imagine the joy and pleasure we have had from watching the Rio Olympics from the comfort of our homes or places of work. But too many hours of continuous watching can greatly increase your risk for many illnesses and even premature death.

Research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who regularly watched three hours or more of TV per day had twice the risk of dying within an eight-year period than those who watch less than one hour per day. In another study, people who averaged over six hours of television watching per night were likely to die five years earlier than those who do not watch TV. Yet, another study of healthy young adults found that watching lots of TV is associated with premature death.




When a blood clot forms in areas like the leg, it's called a deep vein thrombosis. The clot can then break free and travel to your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolus, which is often fatal. Doctors already know that being sedentary for a long period of time such as during a long flight can increase the risk of getting blood clots. So they decided to investigate television-watching.

Those who watched television between two-and-a-half and five hours per night were 70 per cent more likely to have a fatal pulmonary embolism than those who watched less. Those who watched more than five hours were 250 per cent more at risk than those who watched less than two-and-a-half hours of TV.




Watching television is linked to obesity. One large study of women found that for every two hours spent watching television per day, the participants had a 23 per cent higher chance of becoming obese.

Children are also at risk. Research shows that kids who have televisions in their bedrooms are more likely to be obese than those who do not. In addition, the more TV they watched, the higher their risk of obesity in adulthood.


Diabetes and heart disease


Limiting TV watching can significantly cut the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that watching more than two hours of TV daily was linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The study also showed that for every additional two hours of television watched per day, the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease increased by 20, 15, and 13 per cent, respectively.


Low sperm count


Men who watched 20 hours or more of television per week had 50 per cent less sperm than those who watched less. In contrast, regular moderate to vigorous exercise resulted in higher sperm counts. Although a lower sperm count may lower fertility, it does not necessarily prevent men from having children.


Behaviour in children


Children's TV habits may influence their behaviour. One study found that the risk of antisocial or criminal behaviour increased with the hours of television children watched.

UK researchers found that five-year-old kids who watched three or more hours of TV per day were more likely to engage in activities like fighting and stealing by age seven.

However, many studies show that educational television has many benefits and can be a very powerful and useful learning tool for children if used moderately and wisely.


Social isolation


Scientists have found that feelings of loneliness and depression were linked to watching television. They stated that binge watching should not be viewed as a harmless addiction. The increased use of electronic items like television, computers, tablets and smartphones can isolate and promote antisocial behaviour in vulnerable individuals.


Sleep disturbance


As technology continues to invade every aspect of our waking lives, prolonged nighttime TV viewing can make it harder for one to unwind and go off to sleep. On the other hand, others find the television a great sleeping pill. They fall asleep soon after they start watching.


Distorts reality


Another very harmful effect of excessive watching of television comes from how TV portrays reality. Much of what is presented is the sensational and the disturbing - only a small part of reality.


Bad news is considered good news.


Watching the evening news, we are led to believe that what it presented is all that there is to see. Unfortunately, most people accept whatever television offers them, without questioning it or putting it into context. By doing so, we accept a distorted view of reality.


Enjoy in moderation


There is nothing wrong with relaxing in front of the TV, but if you are zoning out every night for longer than two or three hours, that may be harmful. Finding a more active pastime would be beneficial. At the very least, get up and walk around at regular intervals and try a few stretches during your viewing. Another simple tip: Move the TV out of the bedroom.

- You may email Dr Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER106 FM on Fridays at 8:15 p.m. Visit www.tonyvendryes.com for details on his books and articles.