Turn Off Your TV!

A new study reveals that watching less television may lead to a longer life

Aug 17, 2011 | By Alice Park
TIAN IANG—GETTY IMAGES

Sitting in front of the television may be relaxing, but spending too much time in front of the tube may take years off your life.

That's what Australian researchers found when they collected TV viewing information from more than 11,000 people older than 25 years. The study found that people who watched an average six hours of TV a day lived an average 4.8 years less than those who didn't watch any television. Also, every hour of TV that participants watched after age 25 was associated with a 22-minute reduction in their life expectancy.

What’s Going On?

It's no mystery that sitting in front of the tube isn't exactly healthy. The more TV you watch, the less physically active you are. And the less exercise you get, the more likely you are to develop diseases such as diabetes or heart problems.

Lennert Veerman is the lead author of the study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Veerman works at the University of Queensland. He acknowledges that it may not just be the sedentary nature of watching TV that lowers life expectancy, but also the poor diet that onscreen junk-food advertising can promote. But Veerman says that the association between watching too much TV and lower life expectancy persisted, even after adjusting for diet.

Veerman says that it might make sense for doctors to start asking their patients about how much time they spend in front of the TV, and to treat TV time as they would other risk factors for poor health, such as lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet.

Veerman points out that people who are concerned can simply turn off the TV and gett off the couch. "Exercise is good," he says, "but even light physical activity also improves health."