The good, the bad and the ugly of watching TV
It seems that everything involving watching TV is bad for you -- but could there be anything TV does that positively affects your health?
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A new study published on the American Heart Association journal "Circulation's" website says that watching TV might reduce how long you live. The study's lead author, David Dunstan, who is also an associate professor at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, told CNN that, "prolonged watching of television equals a lot of sitting ... if your muscles stay inactive for too long, it can disrupt your metabolism."
"This is the first study to provide evidence linking TV viewing time to an increased risk of premature death," he continued. "In a six-year period of follow up on more than 8,000 Australian adults, the death rate was significantly higher with increased TV viewing time in adults.
"When we compare people who watch less than two hours of television a day, people who watch more than four hours of television a day have a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes, and an 80 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease."
One factor contributing to increased risk of death: Mindless snacking while watching television. However, that alone is not the sole cause. Television itself is not the cause; rather, it's the lack of activity while seated.
"I think this is a big message that too much sitting may be detrimental to our health," said Dunstan.
Dave Munger, Editor of ResearchBlogging.org, says there may be another side to the good versus bad television debate.
"What you see on TV can be benefical. Generally, this might be more common as an overall society benefit. There is a study in India that shows that the conditions of women improve greatly once TV has entered into their community."
Conditions improved there as a result of residents finding role models to emulate on TV, both in male and female capacities. The shared experience of viewing is also valuable. Studies also show that people feel less lonely while watching TV.
"If somebody is lonely and depressed, watching TV can help them out," said Munger. "It is not to say that it counteracts the other health effects of it, but it is a plus that can be compared to the negatives of it."
Technology is moving programming off of television screens and onto the screens of computers and smartphones.
Dunstan says this will need to be taken into account in future studies. "This is a reflection on society in terms of where technology is headed...We are going to see a lot more research in this area."
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