Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Ounce of Prevention | The dangers of television

Published:Wednesday | July 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM

We should be very grateful to whoever invented and developed television. Just imagine the joy and pleasure we have had from watching the soccer World Cup from the comfort of our homes or workplace. But too many hours of continuous watching can greatly increase your risk of major medical problems.




Research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who regularly watched more than three hours of television daily had twice the risk of dying in eight years than those who sat before the box less than an hour per day.

Other researchers found that adults who averaged more than six hours of television viewing nightly were likely to die five years earlier than those who do not watch television. Yet another study of healthy young adults found that watching lots of television is associated with premature death.




When a blood clot develops 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 potentially fatal pulmonary embolus. It is well recognised that sitting for an extended period, such as during a long flight, can heighten the risk of clots.

Investigation into television watching revealed that people viewing television between two and half and five hours per night were 70 per cent more likely to die from pulmonary embolism than those who watched less. Those who watched more than five hours had a 250 per cent greater risk than those who watched less than two and a half hours.




Television viewing 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, as 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 television they watched, the higher their risk of obesity in later life.




Reduced television 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 television 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 continues to increase by 20, 15, and 13 per cent, respectively.




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 make men infertile.




Children's television 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.

On the other hand, several other 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.




Binge watching should not be viewed as a harmless addiction, as scientists have linked feelings of loneliness and depression to television viewing. They suggest that an increased use of electronic items like television, computers, tablets and smartphones can isolate and promote antisocial behaviour in vulnerable individuals.




As technology continues to invade every aspect of our waking lives, prolonged night-time television viewing can make it harder for individuals to unwind and fall asleep. Others, however, find the television a great sleeping tablet, as they fall asleep soon after they start watching.




A very harmful effect of excessive watching of television comes from how it portrays reality. Much of what is presented is sensational and disturbing, and which is only a small part of reality. In the media, bad news is considered good news.

Watching the evening news, we are led to believe that what is presented is all that there is to see. Sadly, most people accept whatever television offers them as gospel, without question or putting it into proper context. By doing so, we and our children end up embracing a distorted view of reality.




There is nothing wrong with some relaxed television watching, but if you are zoned out every night for more than two or three hours, that could be harmful. Finding a more active pastime would be beneficial.

Consider taking the television out of the bedroom.

And as inactivity seems to be a major issue, at least get up, stretch and walk around at regular intervals during your viewing.

- You may email Dr Vendryes at or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 9:10pm. Visit for details on his books and articles.