As a pediatrician, I’m constantly reminding parents to limit their children’s screen time. We try to keep children under two as screen-free as possible. The whole family is better off health wise, especially the children, when non-education video game playing, mindless Internet surfing, and passive solitary TV watching is limited.
Now a recent study, “Causes of Death Associated With Prolonged TV Viewing,” published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that TV watching is bad for grown-ups as well.
A team of researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, followed nearly a quarter of a million healthy 50 – 71 year olds for an average of 14 years. They found that those adults who watched between three and four hours of television per day were 15 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who watched less than one hour of television per day.
Even more disturbing, adults who watched seven or more hours of TV a day were 47 percent more likely to die than those who watched less than an hour a day.
Diseases significantly linked to increase TV time include cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, influenza/pneumonia, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, and suicide.
The take-away message: Watching television is bad for your health.
Is TV bad in and of itself? The researchers aren’t saying that. But we all know that watching television is a solitary, isolating occupation that keeps you sedentary. Sitting in front of the boob tube reduces the time you have available to exercise, interact with your family, read books, and be outdoors. This new research dovetails with other studies, which have linked excessive TV time to obesity and higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
I’ve been talking to parents about their kids but the most important message may be for parents and grandparents: watching too much television can jeopardize your whole family’s health.
This new study should be a wake-up call to all adults. Stay active. Go outside. Spend time with your spouse and your children with the television off. Read a book and do crossword puzzles to stimulate your imagination and your brain. Reduce your screen time as much as you can.
The National Cancer Institute researchers suggest that watching TV is a public health issue. The price we are paying for our technology-driven lives may be much higher than we previously realized.
Now please excuse me while I switch off the tube.
Dr. Paul Thomas, M.D. is a board-certified pediatrician and an addiction specialist. He has over 11,000 children in his integrative practice based in Portland, Oregon. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, and follow him on Facebook.