What impact does all this watching have on our lives? It may be hazardous to your health. I know this seems obvious, but bear with me. The extent of the effect is surprising.
According to 2013 Netflix research, binge-watching, or watching more than two episodes of a single program in a row, is perceived as providing a refuge from our busy lives.
This also has an addictive effect, prompting dopamine surges as we watch. Interestingly, it also can lead to post-binge depression when a show ends and to isolation and lower social interaction while viewing.
TV’s detrimental effect extends beyond the psychological, potentially increasing the risk of heart attacks, diabetes, depression, obesity and even decreasing or stunting longevity.
There was a very interesting observational study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed watching sporting events increases the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events, such as arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and unstable angina (severe chest pain ultimately due to lack of oxygen).
The researchers followed 4,279 German residents who watched the FIFA World Cup playoffs in 1996.
The effect depended on the round of the playoffs and how close a game it was. The later the round and the closer the game, the greater the risk of cardiovascular events.
Elimination games seemed to have the greatest impact on cardiovascular risk. When Germany was knocked out in the semifinals, the finals between France and Italy did not have any cardiovascular effect.
Overall, men experienced a greater than threefold increase in risk, while women experienced an increased risk that was slightly below twofold. According to the authors, it was not the outcome of the game that mattered most, but the intensity.
Another study found that, compared to fewer than two hours a day, those who watched four or more hours experienced an 80 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
I know this sounds like a lot of television, but the average daily American viewing time is significantly over this. This study, called the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle study (AusDiab), looked at 8,800 adults over a six-year period.
An observational study found that TV may reduce the life expectancy of viewers. Those who watched at least six hours per day during their lifetime had a 4.8-year decrease in longevity.
However, this is not the whole story. What is even more telling is that after the age of 25, for every hour of TV, one may expect to lose 21.8 minutes of life expectancy. According to the authors, these results rival those for obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
Diabetes & obesity
In the Nurses’ Health Study, for every two hours of daily television viewing there were increased risks of type 2 diabetes and obesity of 23 and 14 percent, respectively. The results show that sitting at work for two hours at a time increased the risk of diabetes and obesity by only 5 and 7 percent, respectively, much less of an effect than TV watching.
The authors surmise that we can reduce the incidence of diabetes and obesity by 43 and 30 percent, respectively, by cutting our TV time by ten hours a week.
Modestly reducing the amount of television is a simple lifestyle modification that can have a tremendous impact on longevity, quality of life and prevention of the top chronic disease. So, step away from your television, tablet or computer and get out in the world.
For further information, visit medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.