The web is vibrating today with the news (loosely speaking) that TV viewing can kill you. This is not a metaphoric brain-death that we are talking about here, folks; it is actual, stone-cold, stick-you-in-the-ground death. Consider the following headlines gleaned this morning from a variety of online media sources via Google News:
Too Much TV Linked With Disease and Early Death Alice Park, Time Healthland.
TV Time Linked to Diabetes, Death, Crystal Phend, ABC News.
TV gives you diabetes and heart disease, Emma Woollacott, TGDaily.
TV watching raises risk of health problems, dying young, Amanda Gardner, CNN Health.
Watching Too Much TV Can Kill, Adam Clark Estes, The Atlantic Wire.
Just from the headlines, we can figure out the gist of the story. “Too much” TV viewing gives you diabetes and/or heart disease, and then these often associated disease processes kill you. (Depending on what you were watching, some might call it a mercy killing.) The immediate question, of course, is whether it’s the act of watching the TV that kills you or if it is merely being in the presence of a TV set that sends you over the edge.
For example, the other evening, my two daughters and I were all sitting around the living room with our laptops open and the TV turned on but not being watched. Was that less deadly than actually watching the TV? What if we turned the TV off? Would that help? What if we just listened to it? Or watched TV shows on our laptops? Or what if we all went to our rooms and browsed the Web with no TV present? Is set-proximity a factor?
These are all legitimate questions for a follow-up study. I provide them to science free of charge, in the general public interest. In the meantime, we can only look to the original source for answers. Here is the link to the report that triggered the media death-watch:
Television Viewing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-analysis, Anders Grøntved, MPH, MSc; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, JAMA.
The report is “a systematic and quantitative assessment of published studies” of what it calls “the most prevalent and pervasive sedentary behavior in industrialized countries.” The data synthesis appears to indicate that more than a couple hours of TV viewing a day leads to health problems. The conclusion is plain and simple: “Prolonged TV viewing was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality.”
There you have it. Science has spoken. It’s TV viewing that gets you.
What else could it be?
So, whatever you do, don’t watch! Avert your eyes!
Maybe read a book.