16 August 2011
Watching television may be associated with a loss of life comparable to major risk factors for chronic disease, such as smoking and obesity, Australian researchers say.
In the first study of its kind to estimate loss of life due to television viewing, researchers said half an hour of TV equated to the average loss of life due to smoking a single cigarette (British Journal of Sports Medicine 2011, online 15 Aug).
Using data from the AusDiab study - the national diabetes, obesity and lifestyle study - the researchers calculated those who watched an average of 6 hours of television a day could expect to live 4.8 years less than those who watched no television.
This equated, on average, to every single hour of TV viewed after the age of 25 years reducing the viewer’s lifespan by 21.8 minutes.
Without any TV viewing, the average life expectancy from birth for an Australian man would be 1.8 years longer, and 1.5 years longer for women.
Australians aged 25 or older during 2008 watched a total of 9.8 billion hours of television.
The researchers said guidelines to limit television, similar to those for children, were necessary.
"A public health case could be made that adults [also] need to limit the time spent watching TV," they said.
Current guidelines recommend no more than 2 hours of television viewing a day for children.
Last Reviewed: 16 August 2011