Popular wisdom already holds binge TV watching in contempt for dumbing one down. However, a new study linked binge TV watching to cognitive decline.
The results of the study drawing on 25 years of collecting data are worrying. Young adults who are binge TV watching and have almost no level of physical activity are at high risk of suffering cognitive impairment just as they reach midlife. The research team of the Northern California Institute for Research and Education with the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, as well as the University of California at San Francisco published their findings in the JAMA Psychiatry.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data spanning 25 years and collected on 3,247 adults with ages between 18 and 30. The emphasis of the study fell on the link between TV watching patterns, levels of physical activity as well as midlife cognition.
The findings bear significant importance over the behavior of a new generation clocking increasingly more screen time and sedentary activities in the detriment of physical activity. Throughout the 25-year-span, the participants in the study completed a questionnaire assessing levels of physical activity as well as TV watching patterns. Too much TV watching was defined as over three hours daily. The patterns were checked through home visits.
25 years later the researchers assessed cognitive function with all participants. Overall, three tests focused on executive function, processing speed and verbal memory were completed by the participants.
As a result of the tests the new study linked binge TV watching to cognitive decline in midlife. As such, 10.9 percent of the participants who had high TV watching levels consistently over the 25-year-span also had poor cognitive performance.
At the same time, the 16.3 percent of the participants who had low levels of physical activity also had poor performance in at least one of the three tests. For participants who had low physical activity levels in addition to high TV watching levels, the likelihood of cognitive decline was two times higher. This group represented 3.3 percent of the participants.
According to the researchers, the combination of high levels of TV watching and low physical activity levels did not associate with lower performance in verbal memory tests. In return they associated with low results in cognitive performance tests, as well as in processing speed tests.
The research team also acknowledged drawbacks of the study including the fact that it was conducted on a biracial sample of participants. In addition, the participants self-reported TV watching patterns and activity levels, which may also be biased.
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