Nation of TV addicts watch for longer than they work

Channel 4 unveils a new entertainment network - good news for many who now spend more than 36 hours a week glued to the box
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The Independent Online

Nearly a quarter of Britons spend as much time watching television as they do at work during the average week.

Nearly a quarter of Britons spend as much time watching television as they do at work during the average week.

Research published yesterday shows 21 per cent of British people watch television for more than 36 hours - found to be the average working week. Only one in 10 people in East Anglia watch television for more than 36 hours compared with nearly one in three in the North-west.

Sociologists said that television provided a focal point for many families and acted as a means of "time-tabling" family members. "In many households it is used as a way of organising the week, with set soaps every day providing a routine for the whole family, which is very important," said Charlotte Cornish, research manager at the Future Foundation. "For women especially, television provides weekly highlights when it their time to watch it."

It is expected that interactive television will lead to people spending more and more time in front of the box.

Previous research has shown that most people do not watch television alone, with four out of five people saying they watch it with someone else and that the average person spends 25 hours a week watching television.

However the latest figures show that a large number of people are watching it for much longer, on average over five hours a day. It was not just young people who were watching excessive amounts, as the findings held true for men and women and older people.

The research, based on face-to-face interviews with nearly 1,000 people by NOP Solutions, a marketing research company, showed that people on average spend 10 more times watching television than they do shopping.

"It is alarming that so many people spend hour after hour glued to the TV. With so many demands placed on our everyday lives, it is tempting to find solace in the comfort of the front room, rather than exercise or socialise or sort out money matters," said Arif Darr, of Alliance and Leicester, whichcommissioned the research.

Children in particular are putting their health at risk by watching television instead of exercising, said Neil Armstrong, professor of paediatric physiology at the University of Exeter. "We've got an inactive generation of children that are likely to grow up into an inactive generation of adults," he said. "This is almost certainly will have an adverse effect on their health and wellbeing in adult life. Low levels of exercise are associated with factors such as heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity."

Donna Cleall, a 34-year-old hairdresser from Reading, and her husband Dean, 39, each watch around 30 hours of television a week with their daughters, Daisy and Poppy.

Ms Cleall said television offered her "necessary escapism". "We don't go out often because we have two young children and so a lot of nights end up with us curled up in front of the TV."

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