Is too much TV bad for you?

Individuals who choose to spend long periods of time watching television may find their health suffers as a consequence. New research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine - which is co-owned by the British Medical Journal Group and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine - has demonstrated that watching TV for around six hours every day can serve to reduce a viewer's life expectancy by nearly five years.

The authors of the study noted sedentary behaviour - of which watching the box accounts for a substantial level - is linked to increased risk of death from health problems such as stoke or heart attack.

They wrote: "If these [figures] are confirmed and shown to reflect a causal association, TV viewing is a public health problem comparable in size to established behavioural risk factors."

Such choices include smoking and lack of exercise, the investigators noted, adding the results are likely to be applicable across all developed countries, such is the prevalence of TV viewing around the world.

Dr Barrie Gunter of the University of Leicester commented: "This new Australian research based on an analysis of data from a general survey of people's lifestyles and habits fails to indicate whether there were other factors known to be linked to life expectancy that were properly controlled. 

"Amount of TV viewing was included as a risk factor, but was counteracted by how active people said they were. While someone might watch TV six hours a day, they might still take sufficient exercise. If they were not watching TV, might they have been sedentary for that time period doing something else that was passive?

"There is an attempt here to blame TV, when the real issue is one of how physically active or inactive a person is, regardless of what they are doing."