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What Are the Health Effects of Watching Too Much TV?

By Debra Durkee
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Plenty of stories recount what happens when people spend their days watching too much TV, but the health risks of doing so are very real. Cases have been made for physical and mental health risks created by too much television viewing, and while it might seem like an easy babysitter, it may make future parenting much more difficult. In addition to encouraging physical inactivity and unmonitored snacking, sitting in front of the television for hours at a time can also lead to adapting questionable practices and self-esteem issues for children and adults.

Studies have shown that the risk of health problems rises with the amount of time an individual spends watching television. Watching too much TV can increase the likelihood of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease. When the body remains inactive in a position such as sitting on the couch, the heart and lungs work less to pump enough blood through the system. Prolonged periods of inactivity weaken the heart and also allow cholesterol and other harmful substances to build up in the arteries.

When the heart pumps more slowly, less blood is delivered to the body. Substances such as fat and cholesterol build up in the arteries, making an individual more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. When this occurs in young children whose bodies are still growing, it can be particularly dangerous.

The health risks of watching too much TV can also be more insidious, especially concerning young and impressionable individuals. Television could not exist without advertising, and when children are exposed to a constant stream of candy, fast food, and alcohol commercials, it could lead to the development of dangerous habits down the road. Advertising firms tend to target younger audiences, knowing that not only are they impressionable, but that habits are likely to last a lifetime when formed at a young age. When children are repeatedly told by the TV that fast food is a good thing, it can make obesity problems worse.

Watching too much TV also exposes individuals to a world in which perfection is valued above all else. Unrealistic standards can be established and nurtured by television, and without a break into the real world, self-esteem, particularly that of children, can be severely damaged. With a constantly reinforced image of a world with thin and flawless celebrities, health problems such as anorexia or obsession with self-image can be created and made worse by a vicious circle of inactivity and obesity in front of the television.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon943682 — On Apr 02, 2014

I need to know how a lot of TV impacts old people.

By fify — On Apr 14, 2011

Do you guys remember reading news reports about how the genetically modified and hormone packed food products are leading to early puberty in kids? Well I just read that TV does the same thing!

This article I read says that when kids or adults watch too much TV, the brain produces less melatonin, a hormone. They have linked the lack of this hormone to early puberty in kids. That's one more reason to take the TV out of the kids' room!

By SteamLouis — On Apr 12, 2011

The effects of TV I see in my house is eye sight problems, eating in front of the TV and so eating more, plus lack of communication.

My son insists on sitting very close to the TV and watching it. I always warn him and have him sit back, but I think his babysitter has not said anything. I also think it's the reason for his bad eye sight, he is 9 years old and wearing glasses now. Neither my husband nor I wear glasses.

Another thing my husband tends to do is eat in front of the TV, especially if there is something we just can't afford to miss, like a game or a favorite show. I have read articles that say people eat more in front of the TV and eat unhealthier because snack foods are easier to have.

We are also not talking to family members when we are watching TV. I think in the long run, this may cause stress and strain in relationships. It might even lead to depression because if people watch too much TV. I feel depressed and sad if I'm not interacting with people and have a social life. TV is a great way to hide and stay away from society.

By bear78 — On Apr 11, 2011

I had to do a project for one of my classes last year where I gave up some technology for one week and made notes about how my life changed because of it. I chose TV.

I could not watch TV for one week so I replaced that time with reading. The result was that I ended up sleeping one or two hours earlier than usual, which meant that I was better rested in the morning and could wake up more easily.

I think watching TV actually prevents us from recognizing our physical needs and symptoms. I might be sleepy and tired, but I don't realize it because it's like I'm hypnotized by the TV. The same is probably true with eating. The commercials might make us think that we are hungry even though we are not.

After the project, I replaced TV time with books and DVDs. Films are so much better than TV because it has a start and end time, plus no commercials. You can even rent or buy TV show series on DVD now, so you don't necessarily miss out on them. Or if you have a TV system with recording, you can set it up to record your favorite TV shows or the daily news and watch it without the commercials. Any of these alternatives are better than TV.

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