Feature

Health scare of the week: The killer in the living room

People who watch TV for five hours a day are 13 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who watch only for three.

Watching a lot of TV can kill you, a new study says, and the more you watch, the worse your health is likely to be. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data from 175,000 people and found that every additional two hours of daily television consumption increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20 percent and heart disease by 15 percent. People who watch TV for five hours a day—the American average—are 13 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who watch only for three. Those heightened risks are “similar to what you see with high cholesterol or blood pressure or smoking,” Stephen Kopecky, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, tells Health.com.

Study author Frank Hu says the problem is not just that people sit on the sofa instead of exercising. They also “tend to eat junk foods and sugary beverages” in front of the TV more than when they’re reading. Watching lots of TV ups your odds of early death even if you also spend hours exercising each week; conversely, cutting down makes you lose weight even if you don’t exercise. Hu considers two hours of TV per day—the maximum doctors recommend for children—to be “very generous” even for adults.

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