Middle-aged people who regularly turn to television for entertainment appear to be at increased risk of impaired reasoning and memory as they age.
These three new studies even suggest that a moderate amount of television was associated with poorer performance on cognitive tests as people aged. Regular viewers also experienced increased brain atrophy .
The silly box
The study does not know if we are facing a correlation or if there is a causal link: perhaps the brain decline is due to the time that people are sedentary when they are watching television.
All three studies were presented virtually Thursday at the American Heart Association Conference on Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal .
One of the studies involved nearly 6,500 participants who tended to watch roughly the same amount of television over a period of roughly six years from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s .
People were divided into three groups: those who never or rarely watched television, those who sometimes watched, and those who watched often or very often, and underwent a series of brain performance tests as they grew to track changes in your abilities.
A second study focused on about 970 people with relatively stable television viewing habits who underwent additional brain scans to track changes in their brain structure .
This research team found that people who watched television sometimes or frequently had lower volumes of deep gray matter more than a decade later in life, indicating further brain atrophy or deterioration.
The third study also focused on the gray matter of the brain, but used a different set of data drawn from the long-term study on the development of coronary artery risk in young adults. About 600 people were asked the average number of hours they spent in front of the tube each day during follow-up visits that occurred every five years for two decades.
In all studies, people’s physical activity and exercise habits did not affect the association between hours spent watching television and their decline in brain function and gray matter volume.