People who watched a lot of television as children often have health problems in adulthood, such as high blood pressure and obesity, says a 50-year study published in the online journal. Pediatrics.
In the early 1970s, researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand asked parents of more than 800 children to record how much time the children watched television at ages 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. Average viewing time was two hours per weekday. Participants were followed up to 45 years.
“Those who looked more had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in later life,” Professor Bob Hancox, from the school’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, said in a statement. Press release.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels that lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, according to the news release.
The finding held even when sex, infant body mass index and family financial status were accounted for, according to the study. Boys watched more television than girls, and metabolic syndrome problems were found more frequently in men than in women.
The research did not prove that TV watching actually caused these health problems in adulthood, but the authors said the two might be related because children who watch TV may be less physically active and have unhealthy eating habits because they see junk food ads.
The findings hold true even though a much larger number of screens are available today.
“The alarming thing about this is what do we see happening now compared to 45 years ago?” Colleen Kraft, MD, a pediatrician and professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine who was not involved in the study, said US news and world report. “Kids on phones, tablets, computers, screens for much of the day who aren’t really active. So we’re seeing a spate of health problems down the road if we don’t focus on kids and give them opportunities to be active.”
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