6 Ways TV Might Be Killing You

Reprinted with permission from Online Psychology Degree

According to the latest statistics, watching television is America’s No. 1 pastime, and Americans watch an average of four hours and 39 minutes of television every day. For people lucky enough to get eight hours of sleep a night, the time spent watching television eats up one-quarter of their waking life, and their life may shorten considerably unless they can summon up the nerve to unplug their big screens. So before you set your DVR to record the two-hour premiere of that new reality show where two competing families of forensic scientists swap their pets for medical experiments, consider these six ways watching television might be killing you.

1. Too much sitting:

This year, scientists freaked out everyone who happens to have a job in an office (or watches television) with the news that if you spend more than three hours a day sitting, you will die two years sooner than you would otherwise. The connection between sitting and life expectancy has everything to do with the health risks that come from a lack of physical movement. Sitting for long periods can be painful. Back and neck pain as well as headaches are common among teenagers and adults who find themselves spending a lot of time in front of a television or computer screen.

2. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death:

So what happens to your body if you sit and watch an entire season of Breaking Bad? Researchers from the Harvard Public School of Health concluded that prolonged television viewing, which most Americans believe is normal television viewing, increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. The lack of physical movement and unhealthy eating habits both contribute to this risk.

3. Too much junk food:

It’s no accident that the actors in commercials for pizza are almost always shown chomping on stuffed pizza and garlic bread sticks while watching television! Several studies show that children and students are likely to consume junk food not only while watching television, but during their non-television viewing hours as well, due in part to encouragement by commercials to buy and eat unhealthy foods.

4. Violence:

By the age of 18, the average American child will have witnessed 200,000 violent acts on television. It’s natural for children to imitate behavior they witness, especially behavior that is portrayed as being fun and a way to get something you want, such as friendship and respect of your peers. Because of this, televised violence has been and continues to be linked to desensitizing and encouraging aggression in children. Thankfully, public television and cable network shows such as Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer offer alternative viewing experiences for young, impressionable children.

5. Depression:

Neuroscientists at Ohio State University have linked one possible cause of clinical depression to the dim light emitted by television and computer screens during late-night viewing. Their research reveals that hamsters, when exposed to artificial light overnight, exhibited behaviors and changes to the brain associated with clinical depression. Other studies have shown that artificial, night-time light may increase the risk of breast cancer and obesity.

6. The wrong way to lose weight:

Medical experts have criticized the NBC reality show The Biggest Loser for dramatizing unrealistic rapid weight loss and subjecting its contestants to unhealthy and ultimately unhelpful weight-loss techniques. The weight-loss diets for each contestants, who compete against each other to see who can lose the most weight in the shortest amount of time, do not meet the scientific guidelines for a healthy diet. Without addressing and making necessary lifestyle and dietary changes, each “loser” is likely to regain weight once their 15 minutes of fame has ended.

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