Australian scientists have published new research that suggests that the more television people watch, the sooner they die.
The Australian report says that every hour viewers spend watching television increases the risk of premature death. The study was undertaken by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.
Researchers there studied more than 8,000 adults in Australia, for a six-year period. The results will almost certainly be disconcerting for those who regularly watch TV. The findings have revealed that those adults who watched television the most died younger.
The team in Melbourne was led by Professor David Dunstan, who believes this elevated risk of an early death was independent of other risk factors, including high blood pressure or cholesterol levels as well as diet, exercise and smoking.
Dunstan says the research shows that shows that too much sitting on the couch/sofa can be detrimental to our health.
"What this study provides is the first compelling evidence linking television viewing to an increased risk of early death," Dunstan said. "People who watch four or more hours of television a day have a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes and an 80 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease."
Australian scientists point out that there is a difference between not doing enough exercise and sitting down too much, which they believe upsets the body's rhythms and regulatory processes, such as breaking down and using glucose.
Researchers say that technological, social and economic changes mean that people do not use their muscles as much as they used to.
Health campaigners have welcomed the findings, which have been published this week in the journal Circulation.
Australia, like many other wealthy countries, is beset by rising levels of adult and childhood obesity. Almost 70 percent of Australian men are overweight or obese, while about half of all women weigh more than official guidelines deem is safe. Worryingly, a quarter of Australian children have weight problems. Some doctors have warned that the current generation of teenagers could become the first group in history to live less than their parents because of rising levels of obesity, which can trigger diabetes, heart disease and a range of other health complications.
Campaigners are urging the authorities to issue urgent new guidelines for families, restricting young peoples' use of televisions and computers.