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Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
  1. J Lennert Veerman1,
  2. Genevieve N Healy2,3,
  3. Linda J Cobiac1,
  4. Theo Vos1,
  5. Elisabeth A H Winkler2,
  6. Neville Owen2,3,
  7. David W Dunstan3
  1. 1Centre for Burden of Disease and Cost-Effectiveness, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  2. 2Cancer Prevention Research Centre, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  3. 3Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to J Lennert Veerman, Centre for Burden of Disease and Cost-Effectiveness, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston Road, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia; l.veerman{at}


Background Prolonged television (TV) viewing time is unfavourably associated with mortality outcomes, particularly for cardiovascular disease, but the impact on life expectancy has not been quantified. The authors estimate the extent to which TV viewing time reduces life expectancy in Australia, 2008.

Methods The authors constructed a life table model that incorporates a previously reported mortality risk associated with TV time. Data were from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, a national population-based observational survey that started in 1999–2000. The authors modelled impacts of changes in population average TV viewing time on life expectancy at birth.

Results The amount of TV viewed in Australia in 2008 reduced life expectancy at birth by 1.8 years (95% uncertainty interval (UI): 8.4 days to 3.7 years) for men and 1.5 years (95% UI: 6.8 days to 3.1 years) for women. Compared with persons who watch no TV, those who spend a lifetime average of 6 h/day watching TV can expect to live 4.8 years (95% UI: 11 days to 10.4 years) less. On average, every single hour of TV viewed after the age of 25 reduces the viewer's life expectancy by 21.8 (95% UI: 0.3–44.7) min. This study is limited by the low precision with which the relationship between TV viewing time and mortality is currently known.

Conclusions TV viewing time may be associated with a loss of life that is comparable to other major chronic disease risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.

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  • Funding JLV was supported by an NHMRC Capacity building grant (#456002). The contributions of NO, GNH and EAHW were supported by a Program Grant (#569940) from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia and by Research Infrastructure funding from Queensland Health. GNH is also supported by an NHMRC (#569861)/National Heart Foundation of Australia (PH 08B 3905) Postdoctoral Fellowship. DWD is supported by a Victorian Health Promotion Foundation Public Health Research Fellowship. The authors are most grateful to the following for their support of the AusDiab study: The Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, Abbott Australasia, Alphapharm, AstraZeneca, Aventis Pharmaceutical, Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly (Aust), GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen-Cilag (Aust), Merck Lipha s.a., Merck Sharp & Dohme (Aust), Novartis Pharmaceutical (Aust), Novo Nordisk Pharmaceutical, Pharmacia and Upjohn, Pfizer, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi Synthelabo (Aust), Servier Laboratories (Aust), BioRad Laboratories, HITECH Pathology, the Australian Kidney Foundation, Diabetes Australia, Diabetes Australia (Northern Territory), Queensland Health, South Australian Department of Human Services, Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services, Territory Health Services and Victorian Department of Human Services and Health Department of Western Australia. Also, for their invaluable contribution to the setup and field activities of AusDiab, the authors are enormously grateful to A Allman, B Atkins, S Bennett, S Chadban, S Colagiuri, M de Courten, M Dalton, M D'Embden, T Dwyer, D Jolley, I Kemp, P Magnus, J Mathews, D McCarty, A Meehan, K O'Dea, P Phillips, P Popplewell, C Reid, J Shaw, A Stewart, R Tapp, H Taylor, T Welborn, F Wilson and P Zimmet.

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form at

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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