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Television shortens your life

16th August 2011

Too much television can shorten your life, according to a recent Australian study.

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Scientists at the University of Queensland say that a long time spent in front of the box brings a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and premature death.

Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, they report findings that show that every hour spent staring at the small screen can take 22 minutes off your life.

Based on their findings, Australians as a whole are estimated to have watched 9.8 billion hours of TV in 2008, which added up to 286,000 years of life lost.

This puts half an hour of television on a par with smoking one cigarette, which is estimated to shorten life expectancy by 11 minutes.

Television also seems to negate the benefits of exercise, the report found.

The results were the same for people who did the recommended minimum of 30 minutes' exercise a day as for those who did not.

The news will be a blow to many Australians, who as a nation watch an average of three hours of television daily.

Spending more than four hours a day in front of the television brings with it a 46% higher chance of dying from all causes.

Compared with people who watch less than two hours a day, those on a diet of more than four hours' television have an 80% increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The lead author of the study was David Dunstan, although researchers Genevieve Healy and Neville Owen and a number of others also contributed.

In Australian households, watching television is the most common sedentary activity bar sleeping, and involves long periods sitting down.

It is possible that a higher calorie intake caused by snacks in front of the television and reduced energy expenditure could be linked to the increased risk of disease and early death.

Healy called on health professionals and politicians to focus on the issue in trying to improve the health of Australians.

Hours spent watching television are hours taken away from more physically active tasks like walking, going to buy groceries, putting out household garbage and cleaning and tidying up.

Healy said the study aimed to boost public awareness and reduce the risk of disease that could lead to early mortality.

The researchers tracked 8,800 participants aged 25 years and over in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle Study.

The study is the first longitudinal study established to examine the natural history of diabetes and its complications.

A heart expert from the UK said the results were striking, as they showed television could be nearly as bad for health as smoking.

He called for more people to give up long hours spent in front of the television, in the same way that they quit smoking.

 

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