The negative impacts of watching too much telly

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A recent study has found that Australians spend an average of 92 hours and 39 minutes watching live and recorded television per month; that's almost four whole days of sitting on the couchi. While there is no harm in catching your favourite TV show, you might want to think twice before you sit down in front of the telly for the rest of the weekend.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of obesity and diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Who's tuning in?

People over the age of 65 watch the most television, watching 157.7 hours of live and recorded TV per monthi. Adults between the ages of 35 and 49 follow close behind, tuning in for an average of 106.7 hours a month. Children watch almost three days' worth of television a month, with teenagers and young adults watching the least amount of television overalli.

As the range of technology in our homes increases to include more tablets, smartphones and laptops, our overall consumption of television and video is also increasingi. The negative impacts of excessive television viewing are plentiful, and may make you reconsider the amount of time you spend fixated upon the TV.

The impact on your waistline

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that three in five adults and one in four children in Australia are overweight or obese, thanks to an increase in sedentary lifestylesii.

Watching lots of television leads to people engaging in less exercise, which is bad news for anyone who is watching their weight. With only one third of children and 40 per cent of adults engaging in recommended levels of physical activityiii, television should be your last resort when searching for something to fill your time.

We're not just moving less when watching television - we're also eating more. Studies have found that we tend to eat when watching TV, causing us to consume up to 10 per cent more caloriesiv.

Say no to TV dinners

Meals on the couch in front of the television have become commonplace in many Australian households, along with watching television from the kitchen table during meals. If your family currently enjoys watching a sitcom over dinner, it might be a good idea to change the household rules about TV watching during meals.

Studies have found that eating while watching TV is linked to a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) in adults , while children who did not watch TV during meals were significantly less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didvi.

Eating at the kitchen or dining room table without watching television is a more healthy behaviour to practice - it's also a great opportunity to catch up on the day's events with your family or partner.

Reading books with your children after school or encouraging outside play are good alternatives to television viewing.

Bad behaviour

A recent study that followed a group of subjects over time from the age of three to the age of 26 has produced interesting findings. The study discovered that young adults who spent more time watching TV during childhood and adolescence were more likely to manifest antisocial behaviours and personalities than those who watched less TVvii.

Excessive television watching can lead to increased exposure to violence and inappropriate behaviour on TV programs, causing many children to emulate these behaviours at home and schoolviii. Children who watch too much television have also been linked to less social interaction with peers and parents, poorer educational achievement, and an increased risk of unemployment in adulthoodvii.

Reading books with your children after school or encouraging outside play are good alternatives to television viewing, as it can also help curb unwanted behaviours.

A costly habit

The cost of living in Australia is quite high, especially for a family who uses a lot of energy in the home. The longer you watch television for, the bigger your electricity bill. The costs can quickly add up, particularly for households with multiple televisions or large flat-screen LCDs or plasmas.

While the Government requires TV manufacturers and importers to display Energy Rating Labels on all televisions sold in Australiaix, buyers can often be unaware of how much their televisions will cost them in electricity per year - especially if they watch more television than the average person.

Energy ratings are based on 10 hours of usage a day and 14 hours in standby modeix, with some televisions costing nearly $400 a year to runx.

iNielsen, Oztam & Regional TAM 2013, 'Australian Multi-Screen Report Quarter 4 2013', viewed 17 June 2014,

iiAustralian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013, 'Overweight and obesity', viewed 17 June 2014,

iiiDepartment of Health 2014, 'Research and Statistics - Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines', viewed 17 June 2014,

ivInnes, E, 19 March 2014, ' Why eating in front of the TV makes you fat: You consume 25 per cent more LATER in the day without realising', Daily Mail, viewed 17 June 2014,

vWansink, B & van Kleef, E 2013, 'Dinner rituals that correlate with child and adult BMI', Obesity Research Journal, 22:E91-E95, viewed 17 June 2014,

viNik, N. F et al 2013, 'Associations between eating meals, watching TV while eating meals and weight status among children, ages 10–12 years in eight European countries: the ENERGY cross-sectional study', Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013; 10: 58, viewed 17 June 2014,

viiRobertson, L. A. Et al 2013, 'Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Antisocial Behaviour in Early Adulthood', Pediatrics, 10.15142, viewed 17 June 2014,

viiiUniversity of Michigan 2013, 'Television and Children', viewed 17 June 2014,

ixE3 2013, 'MEPS and Labelling Requirements', viewed 17 June 2014,

xE3 2014, 'Televisions - AS/NZS 62087.2.2', viewed 17 June 2014