Watching TV can shorten your lifespan by 22 minutes for every hour spent, according to a new study.
Australian researchers found that for each hour of television watched, those aged 25 and older lose 22 minutes of their life, around the same amount of time a typical American TV show spanning an hour dedicates to commercials.
The findings of the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also showed that people who watch six hours on average live five years less than those who do not watch television.
While the act of watching television itself does not lead to sooner death, there was a link to timelier death in people who watch lots of television. Typically, people who watch too much television tend to live a less healthy lifestyle, eat incorrectly and do not get a proper amount of exercise, which can lead to the development of obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
The study led by Dr. J. Lennert Veerman of the University of Queensland collected data regarding health conditions and television watching activity, when done sedentary not when multi-tasking, from 11,000 people aged 25 and older who were part of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study along with national trends.
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Although the study focused on Australian figures, the researchers noted "the effects in other industrialized and developing countries are likely to be comparable, given the typically large amounts of time spent watching TV and similarities in disease patterns."
The team found that in 2008, Australian adults watched over 9.8 billion hours of television, averaging about two hours per day. For men, life expectancy would increase by 1.8 years and 1.5 years for women without the two hours of television watching.
The data discovered in the study proposes watching TV can be as dangerous as pre-established life expectancy lowering behaviors like smoking and not getting enough exercise. For every cigarette smoked, a smoker loses 11 minutes of his or her life, which is exactly half the amount reduced by watching an hour of television.
"While smoking rates are declining, watching TV is not, which has implications at a population level," Dr. Veerman said in a statement to The Guardian.
While TV viewing time is linked to a loss of life comparable to the effects of smoking and obesity, the exact reasons have not been formally calculated and prompt the need for more fundamental research.
"If these [figures] are confirmed, and shown to reflect a causal association, TV viewing is a public health problem comparable in size to established behavioral risk factors," the authors said in the study.