Study: Heavy TV Viewing Increases Risk of Early Mortality

New research shows that heavy TV viewing significantly increases chances of early mortality.
New research shows that heavy TV viewing significantly increases chances of early mortality. –iStockPhoto

I definitely lost a friend or two during my “How I Met Your Mother’’ phase last winter, I’ll confess. But it turns out binge-watching television isn’t just social suicide, it quite literally kills you, too. New research shows that people who watch three or more hours of TV per day have nearly twice the risk of early mortality than those who watch less.

The eighty-year study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, followed 13,284 healthy Spanish university graduates to analyze the impact of sedentary behavior on risk of early death. The results found that excessive television viewing significantly increases one’s risk of early mortality. Surprisingly, no correlation between other sedentary behavior (like driving) and early death was found.


By the end of the study, 97 participants had died: 19 of cardiovascular disease, 46 of cancer and 32 of other causes. Participants who watched on average three or more hours of television per day had double the risk of dying early than those who watched an hour or less.

Nelson‐Aalen estimates of total mortality according to categories of baseline television viewing. Adjusted for age (continuous), sex, smoking history (never, current, quit), total energy intake (continuous), Mediterranean diet adherence (continuous), baseline body mass index (continuous), physical activity (quartiles), computer use (continuous), time driving (continuous), using inverse probability weighting. — © 2014 Basterra Gortari F J et al.

Previous research has focused on the health effects of sedentary behavior more generally. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with a host of other health problems such as poor nutrition, obesity, diabetes, and lack of exercise. To eliminate these other factors, the researchers adjusted the results according to participants’ age, sex, diet, physical activity and other sedentary activity, information provided by participants’ responses to surveys administered every two years throughout the study.

The researchers aren’t sure why television is so much worse than other sedentary activity. One possible explanation is that driving and computer use are more engaging.

“We think that computer use or driving are not so sedentary because, in fact, you are using your muscles to move your hands, you have muscle tension and stress,’’ the study’s lead author Dr. Migues Martinez-Gonzalez told

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