A Practical Peacemaker Ponders . . .

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Death by TV
1/14/2010

When I give public talks to encourage simple living, I include some remarks about the destructive aspects of excessive media consumption. These include exposure to lots of buy-stuff-you-donít-need advertising, being bombarded with violent images and stories, getting less exercise, and spending less time with family, friends, and on creative pursuits. Now a news story gives us the ultimate reason to turn off the TV: greater risk of death.

The news article is based on "Television Viewing Time and Mortality," published this week in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. It reports on an Australian study of 8800 men and women, with a follow-up of more than six years. Researchers found that each hour spent watching TV was linked with an 18 percent greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, an 11 percent greater risk of all causes of death and a 9 percent increased risk of death from cancer. These links were found not just among the overweight and obese but also among people who had a healthy weight and exercised. People with a history of cardiovascular disease were not included in the study.

I wonder whether it is just the inactivity, or does the tendency to eat unhealthful snacks while watching TV play a part in this? Would the effect be lessened for those who watch relaxing programming--comedies, concerts, hobby-oriented or uplifting shows--rather than more stressful content--news and crime reports? The study didnít examine these aspects. But in any case, there should now be just a little more motivation to restrict excessive viewing in order to avoid death by TV.