Expert Commentary

Television and the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death

2011 meta-study on the associations between television viewing habits and the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other causes of mortality.

Estimates for the amount of time the average American spends watching television per day has recently been reported to be as high as five hours. This sedentary practice, often accompanied by less-than-ideal lifestyle and dietary choices, contributes to the poor health outcomes experienced by many Americans today.

A 2011 metastudy published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Television Viewing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality,” aggregated results from eight studies between 1970 and 2011 to determine the average increased risk of mortality associated with prolonged television viewing.

Findings of the metastudy include:

  • Watching two hours of television a day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%, cardiovascular disease by 15%, and all other causes of mortality by 13%. (The original studies downgraded this risk to 12% based on controlling for a subject’s BMI and overall energy intake.)
  • The estimated risk differences in absolute numbers for every additional two hours of television viewing a day were an additional 176 cases of Type 2 Diabetes per 100,000 individuals every year, for fatal cardiovascular disease, it represented an additional 38 cases per 100,000 individuals every year and for all other causes of mortality, an additional 104 deaths per 100,000 individuals every year.
  • On average the association between hours of television watched per day and type 2 diabetes risk was linear and positive. However the risk of all-cause mortality appeared to increase even further when a subject’s TV viewing exceeded three hours per day

Although the results of this study point heavily to an increased risk of all-cause mortality through prolonged television viewing, researchers conclude that “further study is needed to determine whether reducing prolonged TV viewing can prevent chronic disease morbidity and mortality.”

Tags: obesity, metastudy