Watching TV and Obesity: Is There A Link?

link between television and obesity cartoon

How many hours of TV do you watch a day? If you’re watching several hours worth, chances are you may want to reconsider the habit when you see what current research has to say about TV viewing and weight gain.

Americans have earned a reputation worldwide for watching a lot of TV. We’re also known for our huge meal portions and high rate of obesity.

Back in 1990, when a study asked American participants to name their most time-consuming activities of the day, participants ranked watching TV as number three after work and sleep. This is very revealing as to how people spend their time and what a priority television is in this country.

Today, U.S. households are still watching an average of 8 hours of TV a day. So what does television have to do with weight?

fat kid watching tv on couchHow Watching TV and Obesity Relate

Studies have repeatedly found that there is a positive correlation between watching television and obesity. The Nurses’ Health Study (Hu et al, 2003), for example, looked at 50,000 women, ages 30-55, to see if there was a relationship between prolonged TV watching and obesity. The study found strong evidence that television viewing and obesity were definitely linked, concluding that women had a 23% increased chance of obesity for every additional 2 hours of television time they watched.

The association between TV viewing and body weight is not observed only in adults; the relationship is actually more evident in children. Bener’s 2010 study, titled “Obesity and low vision as a result of excessive Internet use and television viewing”, points out that school students who spend prolonged hours in front of television tend to be overweight or obese.

Undoubtedly, obesity and TV viewing are related. But is the relationship causal? Is the one causing the other? In other words, is the very act of watching TV causing people to become heavier? Α causal relationship of television viewing to obesity has been strongly suggested in the scientific literature. If you are interested in learning how exactly TV viewing can make you gain weight, I would urge you to read on.

Matthew Papa

Matthew, PhD, is a biology scientist and former research fellow at Washington University in Saint Louis, MO. He closely follows the research findings in the field of nutrition, diet and weight loss and enjoys writing relevant articles that present newsworthy information. In his blog, he reviews some clinically studied weight loss programs and offers a discount promotion for Weight Watchers

8 thoughts on “Watching TV and Obesity: Is There A Link?

  • April 8, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Can anyone doubt that sitting in front of the tv watching others live their lives can be a substitute for living our own?

    Of COURSE tv is not good for our weight!

  • October 24, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Oh quite a nice post Matthew. How about turning to some other channel at the time of commercials .. Unless the other channel also shows commercials at the same time.. hehe.. Great outlook overall and quite comprehensive. Thanks.

  • October 23, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Thanks Jarret,
    This is true for excessive computer use, too.

    According to Dr Shi’s paper published last month:

    “Excessive recreational computer use independently predicts undesirable eating behaviors that could lead to overweight and obesity.


  • October 22, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Great post Matthew! Most people probably are not cognizant of the effects of watching TV while they eat.

  • October 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Also, television viewing time has been associated with increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality. (Dunstan et al, 2010. Thank you for this addition, editor.

    • January 14, 2011 at 3:13 am

      Is there any study that reported negetive or no relation between Tv watching and obesity.

  • October 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Fantastic post! Interesting that overeating also occurs at subsequent meals.
    This would make anyone think twice about regular t.v dinners. Thanks


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