“Too much television is bad for you” is more than just an adage parroted by exasperated parents at heedless, homework-shirking teenagers, going by research carried out by US-based scientists.
Using information gleaned from three surveys and studies involving more than 17,000 people, academics from Columbia University, the University of Alabama and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) said they believe “moderate-to-high TV viewing in midlife” contributes to “later cognitive and brain health decline.”
The research comes at the height of a streaming boom, which has seen countless people turn to Netflix, Disney and other subscription content while governments call on citizens to stay at home during the pandemic.
“Engaging in healthy behaviours during midlife may be important factors to support a healthy brain later in life,” according to Kelley Pettee Gabriel, epidemiology professor at the University of Alabama and lead author of one of the papers, which are to be presented at an American Heart Association conference in Dallas on Thursday.
Watching films, shows and other TV content, the researchers warned, “is a type of sedentary behaviour that is cognitively passive or does not require much thought.”
Couch potatoes between the ages of 45 and 64 would be better to hit the Off button on their TV remote controls and stretch a hand in the direction of the nearest bookshelf, the research suggests.
“Cognitively stimulating sedentary activities are associated with maintained cognition and reduced likelihood of dementia,” according to Ryan Dougherty of JHU, who mentioned not just reading, but also computer and board games as healthier alternatives to television.
While the researchers said “higher amounts of midlife television viewing did not seem to impact dementia risk,” they warned longer lifespans coupled with less-healthy lifestyles could contribute “to an increased number of people with the condition.”