Binge TV-Watching May Lead to Mental Decline

Did You Know…binge TV-watching may lead to mental decline in middle age?

Remember the old saying about TV rotting your brain?  Well, a brand new study has shown a link between how much TV you watch as a young adult and mental decline in middle age.  Young adults who spent more time on the sofa binge TV-watching than at the gym exercising were significantly more likely to experience cognitive decline in their 50s.

According to Tina Hoang with the Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco, “low physical activity and high TV watching in young adulthood were associated with worse cognitive [mental] function” in middle-age.

Binging on TV 

The study, published in the digital edition of JAMA Psychiatry on December 2 of last year, could not establish a cause and effect relationship, but secured a definitive association between binge TV watching and declined mental health.  Researchers followed 3,200 men and women over 25 years.

Volunteers were …

   Average age of 25
   55% white
   57% female
   More than 90% high school graduates 

Participants completed at least 3 questionnaires over more than 2 decades.  Researchers assessed physical activity by measuring the duration and intensity of exercise.  They determined mental function by testing verbal skills, as well as how fast volunteers were able to plan, organize, and perform mental tasks.

High TV watchers were defined as those who reported watching 3 or more hours of TV a day the year prior on at least two-thirds of the completed questionnaires.

High TV Watchers Had Lower Mental Functioning Later

Of the participants, 11% were high TV watchers… and once they reached middle age they were much more likely than low TV watchers to score poorly on most mental functioning tests.  The only tests they stayed on par with were verbal memory tests. 

Low Activity Level Increased the Risk 

Of the participants, 16% had low physical activity levels, meaning they were below the baseline number of exercise units for their sex.  By middle age, a lifetime of low activity levels was associated with a decreased ability to think on one’s feet and quickly perform a mental task.

Those who were high TV watchers with low activity levels had double the risk for declined mental performance by middle age versus those who watched 1 hour or less of TV a day and regularly exercised.

How TV Affects Your Health  

The negative effects of binge TV-watching extend beyond brain health. Excessive TV watching has also been linked to:

Weight gain:  And not just because you are spending more time sedentary on the couch, but also because you are being bombarded by advertisements for unhealthy foods!

Increased diabetes risk:  2015 research published in the journal Diabetologia showed that for every hour you spend watching TV each day, you increase your diabetes risk by 3.4%!

Shortened lifespan:  The Journal of the American Heart Association reported that healthy young adults who watched 3 or more hours of TV a day had double the risk of death during an 8-year study compared to young adults who watched no more than 1 hour of TV a day.

No matter your age, start implementing healthy habits now.  That means spending less time in front of the television, and spending more time exercising your body and mind and eating brain-boosting foods.