Binge watching TV can actually kill you, study finds

The danger could be even worse than is known – and is likely to increase as streaming services become popular, scientists suggest

Andrew Griffin
Monday 25 July 2016 21:04 BST
The researchers advised that 'binge viewing' should be treated like long-distance travel
The researchers advised that 'binge viewing' should be treated like long-distance travel (Getty)

Watching too much television might kill you, according to a new study.

The hours of inactivity that are required to watch a TV series can raise the risk of dying from a blood clot in the lungs. For every extra two hours of TV watching per day, the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism was increased by 40 per cent, the researchers found. Watching five or more hours to TV programmes each day made people more than twice as likely to die than those watching less than 2.5 hours.

The actual risk might be even worse than the findings suggest, because of the number of deaths from the disease. And the danger is set to increase yet further as people binge watch even more on streaming services.

The research has led scientists to warn that such habits – watching back-to-back episodes of a TV series – might be dangerous.

The new study, conducted in Japan, looked at the TV watching habits of more than 86,000 people, studying them over time. Researchers followed people who were aged between 40 and 79 between 1988 and 1990, and then followed them through a 19-year period.

In all, 59 deaths from pulmonary embolisms were recorded. Pulmonary embolism is a dangerous condition, which can be made worse by not moving around. It will often begin with a clot elsewhere in the body that can move towards the lungs, clogging up vessels and killing people. More than a quarter who suffer them without having treatment can die. Deaths are often sudden.

"Pulmonary embolism occurs at a lower rate in Japan than it does in Western countries, but it may be on the rise,” said lead researcher Professor Hiroyasu Iso, from Osaka University. "The Japanese people are increasingly adopting sedentary lifestyles, which we believe is putting them at increased risk."

The scientists looked to account for the various other factors that could complicate the results, including levels of obesity, diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure. They found that the other primary marker of pulmonary embolism, after the number of hours spent watching TV, was obesity.

The researchers expressed concern about the danger posed by binge watching. "Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term 'binge-watching' to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programmes in one sitting has become popular," Professor Iso said. "This popularity may reflect a rapidly growing habit." As such, people binge watching TV should act like they would on a plane, he said.

"After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, walk around, or while you're watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles for five minutes," he advised.

The research did the study before mobile computers and unlimited streaming services became popular. The researchers said that more work would need to be done to work out whether those technologies pose even more of a danger.

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