- Parents were urged last night to limit children's exposure
to television after a study found excessive viewing could damage long-term
- Children aged between five and 15 who sat in front of
a television for more than two hours a day tended to be fatter as adults,
have higher cholesterol and smoke more.
- Scientists say it is the first study to suggest that
"couch potato" viewing habits in childhood could leave lasting
- They warned parents to limit their children's viewing
to no more than one to two hours a day. Ideally, children should be rationed
to less than an hour a day, they said.
- The study, led by Dr Robert Hancox at the University
of Otago, New Zealand, involved 1,000 children born in 1972 and 1973 who
were followed up until early adulthood.
- Dr Hancox, who published the findings in The Lancet,
found a clear link between extensive viewing and health risks.
- Among the 26-year-olds, 17 per cent of obesity, 15 per
cent of raised blood cholesterol, 17 per cent of smoking and 15 per cent
of "poor cardiovascular fitness" was attributable to watching
more than two hours' television a day in childhood, he said.
- No link was found between television viewing and blood
- The associations remained after social background, obesity
at the age of five, parental obesity, parental smoking and physical activity
at 15 years old were taken into account.
- "Although the adult health indicators that we have
found to be associated with child and adolescent television viewing are
unlikely to result in clinical health problems by the age of 26 years,
they are well-established risk factors for cardiovascular illness and death
later in life," said Dr Hancox. "Our results suggest that excessive
television viewing in young people is likely to have far-reaching consequences
for adult health.
- "We concur with the American Academy of Paediatrics
that parents should limit children's viewing to one to two hours per day;
in fact, data suggest that less than one hour a day would be even better."
- He acknowledged that parents might find it difficult
to impose such a regime. But it was worth the effort because adult regime
changes aimed at losing weight, improving fitness, lowering cholesterol
levels and giving up smoking were "notoriously difficult to achieve".
- In an accompanying article, Dr David Ludwig, from Harvard
Medical School in Boston, said that television food advertisements contributed
to poor health and should be banned.
- "The argument for action is based not only on strong
scientific evidence but also on common sense," he said.
- "In an era when childhood obesity has reached crisis
proportions, the commercial food industry has no business telling toddlers
to consume fast food, soft drinks, and high-calorie, low-quality snacks
- all products linked to excessive weight gain."
- ï British couples spend most of their time together
watching television, says research.
- People on average spend more than an hour a day with
each other in front of the television and half an hour eating together,
says a study by the Office for National Statistics.
- The Time Use Survey, funded by the Government and the
European Union, interviewed 11,700 people in 6,500 households.
- It calculated that couples spend an average of two and
a half hours - 150 minutes - a day together. This can be roughly broken
down into 55 minutes watching television, 30 minutes eating, 24 minutes
doing housework and 16 minutes having a social life.
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;sessionid=1M5PTSG0VYZ