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Does Television Rot Your Brain?

I’m sure you have heard the old adage television will rot your brain. There might just be some truth to that. First, there is the obvious. Watching television is a sedentary and passive activity. Watching TV is a choice, and like most choices, there is an opportunity cost. When you watch television you forsake other activities that could engage the brain, such as physical exercise or reading. But don’t just take our word for it. The science backs this up. Many thought leading neuroscientists have delivered the message that excessive use of television can be unhealthy. One of the most notable is Dr. Amen who believes watching television is a leading contributor to the rise of ADD in our society.

In this month’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine a new study (Television and Screen-Based Activity and Mental Well-Being in Adults) added more support that watching too much television can have an adverse affect on the brain. The study examined the connection between recreational sedentary behavior (based on TV- and screen-based entertainment) and mental health.

The study was conducted by reviewing the survey data of 3920 men and women from the 2003 Scottish Health Survey. This sample group was given the General Health Questionnaire which contained a mental health component (a 12-Item Short-Form Survey) which was administered to obtain information on their respective mental health. Self-reported TV- and screen-based entertainment viewing time, physical activity, and physical function was also measured.

Approximately a quarter of the participants in the study engaged in at least four hours a day of watching screen-based entertainment. After all other data points were factored out, participants in this group had the highest instances of mental health problems. This led the researchers to conclude that this type of leisure time activity is independently associated with poorer mental health scores than the participants that watched less television.

We are not suggesting that you completely cut out your favorite shows, but more and more research is pointing towards the benefits of getting off the couch and partaking in activities that engage both your body and your brain.