Watching TV 'can lead to early grave'
Watching television for two hours a day increases one's chance of dying prematurely, health experts warn today.
For every two hours stuck in front of the box per day, the chance of dying before the age of 65 increases by 13 per cent, according to research.
The activity - or rather the inactivity - raises the odds of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, say scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US.
They believe television compromises health in two ways.
Firstly, it gets in the way of more healthy pastimes - those that involve physical movement.
Secondly, people tend to consume more junk food and drink while viewing.
Writing today (WED) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), researchers Anders Grøntved and Frank Hu note that television viewing "is the most prevalent and pervasive sedentary behaviour" in Western societies.
Europeans spend on average three hours per day watching, Australians four and Americans five.
The pair made their conclusions after looking at eight studies which followed hundreds of thousands of people over the decades between 1970 and 2011.
Pooling the results, they found that for every two hours a day watching television the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes was raised by 20 per cent, and the chance of developing heart disease by 15 per cent.
The figures translate to an extra 176 cases of Type 2 diabetes per year per 100,000 people for every two hours' viewing; 38 cases of fatal heart disease per 100,000 people per year, and 104 extra deaths per 100,000 people per year.
Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at Harvard, said: "The message is simple. Cutting back on television watching can significantly reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature mortality.
"We should not only promote increasing physical activity levels but also reduce sedentary behaviors, especially prolonged television watching."