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18 September 2017

Media release

Sitting down to binge watch your favourite TV shows increases your risk of dying from diseases like Alzheimer’s and kidney disease

Melbourne researchers have made an important link between the time spent sitting in front of the television and increased risk of death from inflammatory-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

Using survey data of over 8900 adults, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute researchers found that every extra hour per day spent watching television led to a 12% higher risk of death linked to inflammation, including diabetes, respiratory, cognitive, and kidney diseases.

The findings, published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, build on sedentary behaviour research, including pivotal research from the Baker Institute that has previously linked TV viewing time with an increased risk of mortality related to heart disease and some cancers. The study found that even those who watch moderate levels (2–4 hours per day) may benefit by cutting down their television viewing time.

Lead author and Senior Research Officer in the Institute’s Physical Activity Laboratory, Dr Megan Grace, says inflammation is a normal response where chemicals are released into the blood in response to a harmful event to help recovery. When the immune system senses danger such as stress or infection, it responds by activating proteins meant to protect cells and tissues. But she says inflammation can become harmful if these chemicals hang around for long periods, causing disease.

Dr Grace said these findings are an important step in finding out why prolonged periods of sitting may be bad for health. They also provide further evidence that, in addition to promoting physical activity, chronic disease prevention strategies should focus on reducing sitting time.

'With on-demand television, many of us easily spend several hours a day binge-watching our favourite shows', Dr Grace says. 'Those who spent more time watching TV were older, less likely to have completed at least 12 years of education, had lower household income, were more likely to be current or ex-smokers, more likely to have diabetes or hypertension, and had a more adverse overall health profile. High TV viewers also had a lower diet quality'.


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