Using data from 879 participants of the Dunedin study, researchers found those who watched more television between the ages of 5 and 15 were more likely to have these conditions at age 45.
Television viewing times were asked at ages 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. On average, they watched just over two hours per weekday.
“Those who watched the most had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in adulthood,” Professor Hancox says.
Link Between Childhood Television Viewing and Higher Risk of Overweight
“More childhood television viewing time was also associated with a higher risk of overweight and obesity and lower physical fitness.”
Boys watched slightly more television than girls and metabolic syndrome was more common in men, than women (34 percent and 20 per cent respectively). The link between childhood television viewing time and adult metabolic syndrome was seen in both sexes however, and may even be stronger in women.
There was little evidence that watching less television as an adult reduced the association between childhood television viewing and adult health.
“While, like any observational study, researchers cannot prove that the association between television viewing at a young age directly causes adult metabolic syndrome, there are several plausible mechanisms by which longer television viewing times could lead to poorer long-term health.
“Television viewing has low energy expenditure and could displace physical activity and reduce sleep quality,” he says.
The results are important because screen times have increased in recent years with new technologies.
“Children today have far more access to screen-based entertainment and spend much more time being sedentary. It is likely that this will have even more detrimental effects for adult health.”
“These findings lend support to the World Health Organisation recommendation that children and young teenagers should limit their recreational screen time.”
- Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Metabolic Syndrome in Mid-Adulthood – (https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/doi/10.1542/peds.2022-060768/192843/Childhood-and-Adolescent-Television-Viewing-and)
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