TV and Your Life Expectancy

Here’s news that may make even the most avid television viewer shut off the boob tube. According to a recent study, watching TV for an average of six hours a day could shorten your life expectancy by almost five years.

Australian researchers used previously published data on the relationship between TV viewing time and death from analyses of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (Aus Diab), as well as Australian national population and mortality figures for 2008, to construct a lifetime risk framework. They then constructed a risk framework for the Australian population in 2008, based on the answers the study participants had given when asked about the total amount of time they had spent in the previous week watching TV or videos.

The authors estimated that Australian adults aged 25 and older watched 9.8 billion hours of TV, which led them to calculate that every single hour of TV watched after the age of 25 shortened the viewer’s life expectancy by just under 22 minutes. The researchers then used these figures and expected deaths from all causes to calculate that someone who spends a lifetime average of six hours a day watching TV can expect to live just under five fewer years than someone who doesn’t watch TV.

The study suggests that this impact rivals that of other well-known behavioral risk factors, such as lack of exercise and smoking. The authors say these findings “suggest that substantial loss of life may be associated with prolonged TV viewing,” which they say could be considered a public health problem if these figures are confirmed.