Health scare of the week
TV’s negative effect on memory
Watching television for more than 3½ hours a day could exacerbate memory loss in older people, a new study has found. Researchers in England carried out memory and fluency tests on 3,662 adults ages 50 and over—first in 2008–09 and again in 2014–15—and also asked about participants’ TV habits. Those who sat in front of the small screen for more than 3½ hours a day experienced an 8 to 10 percent decrease, on average, in verbal memory during the study period; those who watched less than that had a 4 to 5 percent decline. The researchers believe that the increased decline may be the result of viewing choices. “Older people tend to like watching more soap operas, which can be stressful because they identify closely with the characters,” Andrew Steptoe, from University College London, tells BBC.com. “This may create cognitive stress, which could contribute to memory decline.” Another possible factor is that people who watch a lot of TV are likely to spend less time on activities that help preserve mental function, such as reading and doing crosswords.