Binge watching TV ‘could kill you’ so take a break from that box set

    27 July 2016

    Adults who spend over five hours watching television a day are more than twice as likely to die as a result of blood clotting in the lungs, according to research at Osaka University in Japan.

    During the study on ‘binge watching’, researchers monitored the health of 86,024 people who had completed surveys on their television viewing habits. During the study, 56 participants died as a result of a pulmonary blockage.

    They found that those at the greatest risk of pulmonary embolism watched multiple episodes of a TV series in one sitting. Those who watched between two and a half and five hours of television daily were 70 per cent more at risk. Researchers urge prolific TV viewers to take a break at least once every hour to stretch their legs.

    Blood clots can develop in the legs as a result of inactivity. Pulmonary embolism occurs when the clot travels to the main artery between the heart and the lungs, preventing a steady flow of blood.

    Dr Toru Shirakawa, the study’s lead author, said: ‘Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term “binge-watching” to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programmes in one sitting has become popular. This popularity may reflect a rapidly growing habit.’

    Dr Hiroyasu Iso, the study’s co-lead author, said: ‘After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, walk around, or while you’re watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles for minutes.

    ‘Pulmonary embolism occurs at a lower rate in Japan than it does in Western countries. The Japanese people are increasingly adopting sedentary lifestyles, which we believe is putting them at increased risk.’

    Instant analysis
    It has long been known that sedentary lifestyles and long periods of immobility are a risk factor in the development of blood clots. This Japanese study adds an extra twist by looking at whether extended periods of immobility watching TV (as typically occurs when binge-watching box sets) could also have the same impact — and it would appear so.

    It found that people watching five or more hours of television at a time were 2.5 times more likely to develop a blood clot. However, the study has limitations. The deaths were confirmed from death certificates and so any observed mortalities may be underestimated, and the information collected about TV viewing habits was collected on only one occasion during the baseline survey.

    We already know that immobility is a risk factor for blood clots — this study tries to be new and exciting but doesn’t really add anything to the advice we give to patients about not sitting for long periods.
    Research score: 2/5