Americans log an average of five hours in front of their TV sets each day, and researchers say that's enough to send them to an early grave. A new study finds that for every two hours of television per day, a viewer's risk of an early death rises by 13 percent. The chances of diabetes jumps by 20 percent, and the risk of heart disease increases by 15 percent. Here's a look at five other ways you're taking your life in your hands when you turn on the TV:
1. It causes sleeplessness
Watching TV before dozing off is "far and away" the most common pre-sleep activity, according to a 2009 study reported in The Telegraph. The researchers said the practice is one of the major causes of sleep deprivation, a condition that plagues one in three people and is linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and depression.
2. We become too attached
During the 2007 TV writers' strike, when scripted series went off-air for several months, some college students reported feeling "real distress" over the loss of new episodes of The Office and Grey's Anatomy, says a study published in Mass Communication and Society. The "anguish" is comparable to the trauma of a romantic breakup, says Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel, as many people watch TV for companionship. And bad breakups can lead to depression.
3. Actually, even one hour of TV is bad for you
A study released last year concluded that watching TV creates an 11 percent greater risk of all causes of death, and, for extra measure, a 9 percent greater risk of death from cancer, according to report in the American Heart Association's Monday in Circulation journal. The kicker, however, is that all of those dangers increase after each hour spent in front of the TV, not every two as in the study released this week.
4. It slows early childhood development
While educational programs can make older preschoolers smarter, "that screen might just be doing the opposite" for kids under age 2, according to one researcher. The first two years of a child's life are a "critical" time in brain development, and TV time takes away from play, exploring, and other activities essential to normal growth. Too much TV in infancy is linked to slow language, cognitive, and attention development. Once a child reaches age 2, however, Sesame Street is not only allowed but encouraged.
5. Plus, actors are too skinny
From Ally McBeal to America's Next Top Model, television has traditionally spotlighted a female body type that is unattainable for most women. But research shows that may not just be bad for a woman's self-esteem — it could be bad for her health. Constant exposure to thin women, such as on TV, "permanently alters brain function," according to a study conducted by Brigham Young University, and increases the likeliness that a viewer will develop eating disorders.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan is another sign of life in the GOP
- How to save Meet the Press
Subscribe to the Week