Does TV Kill?

The New York Times ran an article about how small lifestyle choices can result in big health consequences. Key line: “Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.”

I read that sentence this morning; and I sold my TV on Craigslist tonight. Because if that statistic is even 10% true, television isn’t worth it to me.

Did I make the right decision? Or do you think I was suckered by a statistical mirage of correlation vs. causation? It’s NFL playoffs time, and I really need some emotional support on this right now if I’m going to make it through the weekend.

Secondly, if you grant that the statistic is at least partly true, yet you still maintain that I made the wrong decision, then how many minutes of life would you give up for an hour of TV?

  1. Nick Stuart

    1 minute of TV costs 1 minute of life. So make sure that what you’re watching is worth it.

    My wife is an avid TV watcher, but we only watch DVDs (or Netflix) of shows we’ve selected. We play games like Yachtzee while we watch. Time together is time together I suppose.

    Watch commercial-free (DVD/Netflix/etc.) and you get back the 22 minutes per hour you lose (if you believe the Times statistic, which I don’t).

  2. Jeff Petraska

    But Nathan, how are you going to watch the new season of Sullivan & Son on TBS? 

  3. PsychLynne

    From the original post describing the study:

    “television viewing time is a useful, if somewhat imprecise, marker of how much someone is engaging in so-called sedentary behavior.”

    While in this population-based, Australian study you could perform a statistical analysis to calculate the minutes of life lost to television watching, you can’t say that the sale of your TV bought you that many minutes.  The stats describes trends in a population not your individual experience.  Sedentary behavior is the key, and people who watch a lot of TV tend to be more sedentary.

    So,yes, Nathan, you are making an interpretation error. 

    And by the way, I frequently read the NYT, especially the Science/Health/Education sections.  It’s one way I hear about new science.  Also, when I quote NYT, it buys me street cred in my liberal workplace. 

  4. Larry3435

    What?  Give up my Alzheimer years just for the pleasure of doing what pleases me now?  Well, actually, yeah.  My exit strategy is to enjoy my life, watch TV, drink, smoke, eat red meat, and get hit by a bus when I’m 70.  Life is too short to spend trying to make it longer.

  5. Miffed White Male
    Arahant: Tv is a time-waster that kills braincells.  Ricochet at least builds brain cells.  I stopped watching TV when I moved to Michigan in 1990.  Haven’t missed much.  I watch some things, like Presidential debates, via computer now.  I may hang out on the MLB or NFL site to watch the site’s coverage of the World Series and Super Bowl, but not watch the actual games.

    In other words, you haven’t *actually* stopped watching TV.

  6. Pony Convertible

    I am sad to say that I am again watching TV.  It seems to be addictive.  About 8 years ago, I decided I would try to go without watching TV for a summer.  I ended up going 3 years without watching even one minute of TV.  It changed my life.  I began doing more things, and enjoying myself more.   The most important thing was that I became focused on my life, my family, my friends, and other things that were important to me.   I didn’t get worry about things I had no control over and were happening elsewhere in the world.   Things like a school shooting in another state, or a fiscal deal in Congress weren’t weighing heavy on my mind.  I would know about such things, but TV makes these things a bigger deal in your life than they should be.  You can’t control these things, so they shouldn’t be your focus.  TV media controls what you focus on.   Take a break from it and focus on your life.  It is rewarding.

  7. Adriana Harris

    1. The statistic was in the New York Times so forgive me if I don’t buy it.

    2. Moderation in all things. I’m not a big fan of TV, but I do enjoy NASCAR and football. I generally watch a couple races/games a week during their respective seasons. Time in front of the TV has to be balanced with time up and moving. This not difficult for me because I am and avid exerciser and have a large yard and house to maintain. Plus, I simply cannot sit in front of the TV for more than a few hours.

    3. TV helps pass the time during unpleasant activities. I don’t like to iron, but if I have a good movie to watch while I’m doing it, it doesn’t seem so bad.

    4. If you ignore the garbage (and there’s a lot of it) TV can still be a force for enlightenment and education. I can still find documentaries, concerts and other performances that are worth watching.

  8. Keith Preston

    Every moment I have enjoying professional sports on TV, and not thinking about how the electorate have chosen our national destruction, is another moment of life-saving calm and distraction.

    TV is keeping me from dying of a broken heart.

  9. Lord Humungus

    I’m pretty sure that when I die and go to hell I’ll be locked in a room full of televisions with no off, no mute and nothing to watch but NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN. So, good choice, enjoy life while you can.

  10. Nathan Harden
    C

    I too once went without a television for several years. It’s like cigarettes. If you aren’t smokin ‘em you aren’t missn ‘em (much).

    I confess, I had more than mere lifespan extension in mind when I sold the beautiful LED big screen. I had productivity and life-focus concerns in mind. And as much as I enjoy TV in moderation, especially sports, I, like you, feel that I did a better job of living the kind of life I want to live when I didn’t have that 10-hour Sunday temptation sitting in the den.

    But Oh to miss that sweet sound of playoff football… it pangs.

    Pony Convertible: I am sad to say that I am again watching TV.  It seems to be addictive.  About 8 years ago, I decided I would try to go without watching TV for a summer.  I ended up going 3 years without watching even one minute of TV.  It changed my life.  I began doing more things, and enjoying myself controls what you focus on.   Take a break from it and focus on your life.  It is rewarding. · 35 minutes ago

  11. Nathan Harden
    C

    RE: All you NY Times haters. The arts and culture, science and technology coverage, real estate, etc–it’s unequaled. Truly.

  12. She
    Central Scrutinizer: I’m pretty sure that when I die and go to hell I’ll be locked in a room full of televisions with no off, no mute and nothing to watch but NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN.  · 1 minute ago

    What I fear most is to be locked in a room with the Discovery Channel or the History Channel on all day.  Or most of the other satellite and cable channels, come to think of it.

    Used to be, I was a nervous wreck watching the Discovery Channel as the charming wildebeest grazed the Serengeti, knowing that it was only a matter of time before the lions appeared to tear them to shreds.  Now that’s all gone and it’s “Moonshiners,” “Amish Mafia” and “Property Wars” all day.”

    Then there was the History Channel.  “Would World War II turn out differently this time?” I used to worry.  Well, no more.  The lineup is almost exclusively  “Pawn Stars,” “Cajun Pawn Stars,” “Pawn Stars,” “American Pickers,” Pawn Stars,”  “Ax Men” and “Pawn Stars.”

    Then there’s the lineup of gluttonous fools and foul-mouthed chefs that populate the travel and food channels.

    And I actually pay for this!

  13. Songwriter

    If that statistic about losing 21 minutes for every hour of TV past the age of 25 is true – I’ve been dead for a decade.

  14. Lord Humungus
    She

    And I actually pay for this!

    Why? Why do you do it? I tuned out in 1998 when Seinfeld ended and don’t miss it one bit. It’s amazing how much time (and money) I freed up.

  15. Franco

    It’s been said here  in other words, but it depends on what you mean by TV. I watch netflix and sometimes HBO and sports. I have a DVR so I don’t ever have to watch commercials ever again and I don’t. I no longer watch the news, or Meet the Press on TV other than clips on the internet.  I also go two months a year without a TV and those are some of the best times I have. I don’t miss it at all. And then when I see  news programs in passing it appears to me to be even more absurd and ridiculous. 

  16. Hoyacon
    Nathan Harden: RE: All you NY Times haters. The arts and culture, science and technology coverage, real estate, etc–it’s unequaled. Truly. · 48 minutes ago

    Point well taken, Nathan, although the arts coverage is compromised, IMO, by the paper’s politics.  The moral dilemna we face is whether to subsidize the Charles Blows and Paul Krugmans of the world by giving a page hit to the worthwhile sections.

  17. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.

    My wife and I spend most evenings watching TV together. The important words in that sentence are “My wife and I” and “together.” We talk about what we’re watching, we laugh, and we just enjoy spending the time with each other. I dare anyone to tell me there’s something wrong with that.

    I find that people often use the word “addiction” to mean “something other people like to do.”

  18. Casey
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.: We talk about what we’re watching, we laugh, and we just enjoy spending the time with each other. 

    Newlyweds, eh?

  19. Whiskey Sam

    You can give every thing up and have a long, boring life, or you can live it up and have a short, enjoyable one.  I’ll have the Packers game on Saturday if you change your mind.

  20. Salamandyr
    “Justified” and “Burn Notice” are worth the sacrifice. But seriously, I see no reason to believe that sitting in front of a television is more harmful than sitting at a computer, or sitting reading a book.  Sedentary is sedentary.  As Warren Zevon says, life will kill you.

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