August 17, 2011

The health of television (or, at least, its viewers)

There's nothing new about the idea that watching too much telelvison can be bad for you. Back in the early days of TV, it was thought that it might cause bad eyesight. Then it was the violence on television that could be dangerous to your psychological well-being, especially if you were a kid.  There were even fears of what an unstable portable TV might do to small children.* Not to mention how unhealthy the average TV dinner probably was.

*It reminds me of an old Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown, reading a story in the newspaper, asks Linus if he thinks television is harmful to his health.  To which Linus replies, "I don't know.  I've never had one fall on me."

Now it appears they've finally quantified just how harmful TV can be. According to an Australian study, for every hour someone watches TV, they take 22 minutes off their lifespan.  At that rate, I probably ought to be dead by now.

Except - the same story I linked to above notes a study by the medical journal The Lancet found that as little as 15 minutes of physical activity every day could increase a person's lifespan by three years.  Since I get at least twice that much exercise just walking to and from work, that means I might actually come out ahead on the deal.

There's no word, as far as I can tell, of the effects of watching television while exercising.  But, one wonders, how long before they try to ban TVs from hospital rooms?

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