Need more time? You might be able to find two or three extra hours a day by eliminating most of your television viewing, if you’re like most Americans. In addition to having more time, you might also lose weight, be happier, eat better, and buy less stuff. If you reduce your children’s viewing time, they will likely see similar results.
If you think you need to watch TV to unwind or relax, consider the fact that a number of studies have linked depression and excessive television viewing. A thirty-year study with 30,000 participants found that although people may feel happier while watching television, they tend to be less happy the rest of the time.
One study that looked at the habits of 50,000 women from 1992 to 2006 showed that women who watched television for three hours or more a day were more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who rarely watched television.
In a British study of ten- to thirteen-year-old children, researchers found that the more a child watched TV, the more materialistic they became and the worse their relationship with their parents. The researchers said that when children watch a lot of television, they are exposed to people who are richer, more beautiful and glamorous, and lifestyles that are more extravagant than their own, which lowers their self esteem and ultimately makes them unhappy and materialistic.
Many studies have linked exercise, time spent with friends, and even reading with lower rates of depression than TV viewing. Another disadvantages to watching television is increased consumerism. I even heard a radio host once say that she got dressed late one night and drove to a fast food restaurant to get a burger after seeing one of their ads on television. Although you may have never done this yourself, the reason that companies advertise on television is because they see a definite correlation between ads and sales. When they stop advertising, their sales go down.
There have also been many studies that have linked television watching with obesity. When you are watching television you are not moving, and you are being exposed to ads for processed foods, which tend to be high in fat, sugar, and salt. One study showed that children who watch television are less likely to snack on fruits and vegetables, and another one found that many people snack more when watching television.
Yet another study “found a significant association between the number of hours of television watched per day and body fat mass, with every extra hour/day spent watching television associated with a 2.2 pound increase in body fat.”
One study broke down the type of television that a child watched and found they were more likely to be obese if they watched commercial television than if they watched DVDs or educational TV. “By the time they are 5 years old, children have seen an average of more than 4,000 television commercials for food annually. During Saturday morning cartoons, children see an average of one food ad every five minutes. The vast majority of these ads — up to 95 percent — are for foods with poor nutritional value.” Junk food also uses a lot of packaging and is expensive compared to natural foods.
I used to be addicted to television about as badly as a person could be, but we got rid of cable when we lived in the burbs and never really missed it. We still have a television and use it to watch DVDs or stream movies once or twice a week.
Imagine what you could do if you had an extra hour every day. You could bake your own bread, tend a flock of backyard hens, or maybe even milk a few goats to make your own cheese!