We all love box set binge, but could hours in front of the TV be bad for our health? Imy Brighty-Potts asks experts for their opinions.
From Netflix before bed to supper in front of the TV to banging on the couch for a weekend movie marathon, we all love a good screen session. But could our viewing habits harm our health?
Streaming services have grown in popularity in recent years and around a fifth of UK households now subscribe to all three of the most popular platforms – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ – costing around £300 a year, according to UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom. Those over 65 still prefer broadcast TV to streaming and spend about a third of their waking hours (nearly six hours) in front of the box.
Of course, this isn’t all bad news. Losing yourself in a good series or movie can be a great form of escapism, a way to combat loneliness and, for many, an affordable way to keep the family entertained.
But with hours in front of the TV becoming the norm, is it worth considering whether our viewing habits could be harming us? We asked some experts what too much TV could do to our bodies and minds…
“There is limited evidence that binge-watching TV has a negative impact on our brain health,” says Dr. Bal Athwal, Consultant Neurologist at Wellington Hospital (part of HCA UK).
“However, there have been preliminary studies that suggest it may decrease the amount of gray matter you have as we age,” adds Athwal — a process linked to “dementia and other degenerative brain diseases.” will, as it is not stimulating, sedentary behavior.”
Phil Sharples, therapist at UK online therapy service Livelife, says: “If you look at the impact that too much television has on our mental health, there is research uncovering a link between binge watching, depression, emptiness and bad mood haben also suggested that those suffering from depression or anxiety may be more likely to experience binge watching, which also impacts their physical health.
“Binge-watching can also disrupt your sleep, and there is evidence that sleep deprivation can contribute to the onset and worsening of mental health problems — like anxiety and depression.
“It’s also important to consider the types of programming you watch, as the rise of reality TV shows is having an impact on the mental health of many young people — especially when it comes to body image,” Sharples adds . “Recent research from Livelife found that nearly a quarter of Gen Z and Millennials consider body image to be one of the top determinants of their mental health.
“Binge-watching TV can also lead to isolation, and the more we isolate at home, the harder it becomes for us to leave the house, increasing our anxiety and our ability to achieve a balanced lifestyle.”
You might not get square (as our parents warned), but staring at a screen all day can certainly damage your eyesight.
“Binge-watching TV can cause eyestrain, and symptoms of this include difficulty concentrating, headaches, blurred or double vision, and burning or itchy eyes,” says Dr. Hana Patel, private practitioner and mental health coach.
Dry eye syndrome is also linked to too much screen time – so regular breaks are important. If symptoms persist, have things checked out by an optometrist. Treating these things early can prevent them from getting worse
according to dr Sarah Davies, consultant in musculoskeletal, sports and exercise medicine at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, says too much television could be seriously damaging to our muscles and cardiovascular health.
“When you slouch on the sofa, there is first a sudden elongation of the soft tissues, followed by a slower but continuous increase in the length of the fibers when you sit in this slouched position for a long time. Put simply, our soft tissues continue to elongate when stretched out on the sofa, even when you’re lying still,” explains Davies.
“When you finally get off the couch, the soft tissue collagen fibers need time to recover to their original length, which is why you might feel stiff for a few seconds or minutes when you get going.
“If we sit still for a long period of time, blood can pool in the veins and slow the return of blood to the heart via the smaller vessels,” she adds. “This can divert blood from important bodily functions, reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of the working body while we’re engrossed in a boxing set.”
Sitting in front of the TV for hours often also means snacking for hours – without much movement in the mix.
“Mindlessly munching on food while mindlessly munching on Netflix and other streaming services causes endless problems for our gut health,” says Dr. Lisa Das, Consultant Gastroenterologist at HCA at the Shard. “By sitting down, the intestines slow down digestion, which in turn can lead to symptoms such as bloating, reflux and constipation.
“The main concern with distracted eating is not experiencing the joys of a meal,” she adds. “We don’t taste food the same way, recognize when we’re full, and there’s no social interaction that’s as important to our gut-brain signals.”
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/this-is-what-too-much-tv-is-doing-to-your-brain-41989660.html That does too much TV with your brain