“Children today have far more access to screen-based entertainment and spend much more time being sedentary,” states a recent study at the University of Otago led by Professor Bob Hancox. This investigation strengthens the argument that excessive childhood television viewing can lead to adult health issues, specifically metabolic syndrome. The study, which analyzed data from 879 participants of the Dunedin study, revealed a higher likelihood of these conditions at age 45 in individuals who watched more television between the ages of 5 and 15.
The implications are clear, with childhood television viewing time also linked with higher risks of obesity and low physical fitness. Moreover, while boys were found to watch more television than girls, metabolic syndrome – more common in men (34 percent) than women (20 percent) – was linked to high television viewing in both genders.
Underlying Mechanisms and Future Outlook
Watching television is a low energy activity that could reduce physical activity, affect sleep quality, and promote unhealthy eating habits, potentially persisting into adulthood. “Screentime may also promote higher energy intake, with children consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages and high-fat dietary products with fewer fruit and vegetables. These habits may persist into adulthood,” warns Professor Hancox.
Relevance to WHO Guidelines
“These findings lend support to the World Health Organization recommendation that children and young teenagers should limit their recreational screen time,” concludes the report, underscoring the significance of these findings in a world where children’s screen times are steadily increasing due to technological advances.
Original Study Source: University of Otago
Journal Reference: MacDonell, N., et al. (2023) “Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Metabolic Syndrome in Mid-Adulthood,” Pediatrics.