Is Television Making Us Unhealthy?

Is Television Making Us Unhealthy?

A series of studies have found a link between media consumption and poor health.

Published June 14, 2011

How many hours a day are you and your children plopped in front of the television? The amount may be the difference between good and bad health. (related: Blacks Now Watch More TV Than Any Other Group.)

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmar and Harvard School of Public Health found that watching television for 2-3 hours per day or more was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular disease, according to a study in the June 15 issue of JAMA


By analyzing the amount of television consumption and incidence of type 2 diabetes, nonfatal or fatal cardiovascular disease and mortality, researchers found the following: An analysis of data indicated that 2 hours of TV viewing time per day was associated with a 20 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes; a 15 percent increased risk for fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular disease; and a 13 percent higher risk for mortality.


“While the associations between time spent viewing TV and risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease were linear, the risk of all-cause mortality appeared to increase with TV viewing duration of greater than 3 hours per day,” the authors wrote.


And while the researchers didn't offer any explanations as to why this connection was present, they wrote, "Additional research quantifying the mediating influence of diet and physical inactivity is warranted.”


As it should be, because we all know that the very act of watching television isn't making us unhealthy. What makes us unhealthy when we consume so much media is the unhealthy behaviors—sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating—that are linked to it. Hours of lying on the couch and flipping the channels takes away from people being mobile, walking around, working out and being active. In addition, past studies have also shown that people don't eat very healthy or watch their portions when they are sitting in front of the television.


And when you think about how easy media is to consume in this generation—computers, televisions, MP3 players—the link to poor health poses an even higher threat to our kids.


Researchers from Northwestern University found that children of color spend more than half their day consuming media content—an average of 13 hours a day using mobile devices, computers, TVs and other media, which is about four and a half hours more than white kids.


They also found that African-American teens are more likely to have a TV in their bedrooms (which can negatively impact sleep) and eat meals in front of the TV.


And while media consumption is just one factor in a thousand as to why our community suffers from disproportionate obesity, these studies should definitely make you rethink how long you sit in front of the boob tube tonight.

(Photo: Fred Prouser/Reuters)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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