5 Ways your TV is Slowly Killing You

Americans watch more than five hours of television per day on average, according to a 2008 study conducted by the Neilsen Company. While you may have your weekly "must-watch" show , you may consider doing something else with those 25+ hours that you usually spend plopped in front of the television. Research shows that your television viewing may be slowly killing you. 

While TV can be fun and entertaining and occasionally help you blow off some stress, you may want to consider some of the harmful effects of the American television habit:

1. TV increases your risk of dying from heart disease.

According to a recent report in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, every hour you spend in front of the TV increases your risk of dying from heart disease. Australian researchers studied 8,800 adult men and women for an average of six years and found that--compared to people who watched less than two hours of TV a day--those who watched four or more hours a day had an 80 percent higher risk of death due to cardiovascular disease. And that was true even among people who didn't smoke, were thin, ate healthy diets and had low blood pressure and cholesterol.

2. TV increases your risk of cancer.

In the same study, researchers found that every hour spent in front of the TV translated into a 9 percent increase in the risk of death from cancer. One of the surprising things they found was that even for people who exercised regularly, the risk of death went up the longer they spent in front of the TV. The researchers suggest the problem was the prolonged periods of sitting still.

3. TV puts you at risk for obesity and diabetes.

Watching TV will not only make you less active, but the more TV you watch, the more calories, fatty foods and fizzy drinks you are likely to consume, and the less healthy nutritious foods you'll eat, according to studies. Watching TV and eating fast foods and junks foods adds up to a high risk for obesity and diabetes.

4. TV causes you to drink more alcohol.

According to a report published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, people are more likely to drink alcohol when they see it on TV. Researchers found that men who watched films and commercials in which alcohol was prominently featured immediately reached for a glass of beer or wine and drank an average of 1.5 glasses more than those who watched films and commercials in which alcohol played a less prominent role.

5. TV increases your risk of death by any cause.

In the study published in Circulation, the researchers found that those participants who said they watched four or more hours of TV a day were 46 per cent more likely to die of any cause compared to people who said they spent less than two hours a day in front of their TVs.

The Bottom Line

Long hours in front of the TV causes a sedentary lifestyle that over time puts individuals at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. Avoiding sitting for long periods can reduce that effect.

What to Do

Here are a few tips for you to take back your life from the TV set.

  • Take a walk. Instead of turning on the television when you get home from work, take a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the natural entertainment.
  • Play outside. On the weekends or after work, play outside with your kids. Give kids the opportunity to play outside as often as possible. You'll find you will both be energized by this, and as a result, have a much lower desire to sit inside in front of the TV.
  • Add more routine movement to your daily life. When working at a desk, get up every 20 minutes for break. Walk to the water cooler, walk around the office, or do your favorite stretch.
  • Set TV boundaries. Whether for you or your children, it's important to set a limit to the number of hours of TV watched per day (or week). Talk to you children about their favorite shows, and set a clear schedule. Do the same for yourself.


Carroll, Linda. "5 Ways Your TV is Slowly Killing You." MSNBC. 5 March 2010.  Web. 22 Apr. 2010. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35646508/ns/health-behavior/

Dunstan, D.W., Barr E.L.M., et al. Television Viewing Time and Mortality: The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. Circulation. 121 (2010). 384 - 391.

Eberhart- Phillips, Jason. "Is Your Television Viewing Killing You Slowly?" Chronic Disease Control, Alaska Division of Public Health. 10 Nov. 2003. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. http://www.bbna.com/Well03/tvdeath.htm

NBS News Channel. Web. 22 Apr. 2010.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35646508/ns/health-behavior/#hybrid_video

Paddock, Catherine. "Prolonged TV Viewing Linked to Higher Risk of Death Even in Regular Exercisers." Medical News Today. 12 Jan. 2010. Web.  22 Apr. 2010. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/175656.php

Van den Bulck, Jan and Buellens, Kathleen. "Television and Music Video Exposure and Adolescent Alchohol Use While Going Out." Alcohol and Alcoholism. 40.3 (2005). 249-253.