Lifestyle & Belief

Two hours or more of TV viewing increases risk of diabetes and heart disease, study says


Young children watch television at home. According to US study, watching two hours a day or more in front of the television increases risk of dying, or of developing diabetes and heart disease.


Peter Macdiarmid

People who spend two hours a day or more in front of the television are at greater risk of dying, or of developing diabetes and heart disease, according to a US study, Reuters reported.

US residents spend an average of 5 hours each day watching television, while Australians and some Europeans put in 3.5 to 4 hours a day, said the researchers, led by Frank Hu, at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"The message is simple. Cutting back on TV watching is an important way to reduce sedentary behaviors and decrease risk of diabetes and heart disease," Hu said, according to Reuters.

Hu and his colleagues examined the findings of eight studies that included over 175,000 people and looked at the health risks associated with TV viewing. The results showed that more than two hours of TV viewing a day increased risk of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and more than three hours of daily viewing increased risk of premature death.

Every additional two hours spent in front of the box per day raises the diabetes risk by a fifth and heart disease risk by 15%, the study found, BBC News said. The researchers said that it wasn't the TV viewing that was the problem, but that people who spend hours watching television were less likely to lead an active lifestyle as a result and, in turn, were more likely to be overweight.

The study couldn't prove that TV watching alone raises the disease risk, nor could it identify what about TV watching might have an impact, Reuters said. But the researchers pointed out that not only does TV time typically exclude physical activity, people also tend to eat fatty foods and sugary drinks while watching, the Los Angeles Times said. The researchers also said that other sedentary activities, like sitting in front of a computer on the Internet, might have a similar effect, and that this should be studied, according to BBC News.

The results were published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA.