Research suggests too much TV can affect your memory
20th March 2019
Hours spent in front of the television may seem like the perfect way to unwind, however, new research suggests there are long-term consequences that can occur. The study reveals watching TV for over three hours per day can have a negative impact on an older person’s memory.
Dr Daisy Fancourt from University College London conducted a large study involving 3,600 older people. New Scientist reports, in 2008 the participants received a series of health and cognitive tests as well as answering various questions on their lifestyle and television habits. Six years later the same tests were conducted as well as a study on the amount of time each person spent in front of the TV during those years.
As part of the study, the researchers considered other factors that involved the amount each person exercised and their lifestyle choices. The study found that there is a correlation between how much TV someone over 50 watches, and how much their verbal memory declines. Although it is natural for our memory to get worse with age, this research suggests TV quickens the process.
It was revealed that those who watched TV for more than 3.5 hours a day have experienced between an 8% to 10% decrease in the ability to remember words. The type of shows the participants were watching were not considered however, Professor Andrew Steptoe commented: “Older people tend to like watching more soap operas, which can be stressful because they identify closely with the characters, this may create cognitive stress which could contribute to memory decline.”
The effects TV has on an older person’s memory has not been confirmed despite the results of this study. Professor Dame Til Wykes comments: “There is still a lot we don't know, such as whether memory reductions are affected by what we watch, whether we watch alone or whether you interact with the TV like those on Gogglebox. We also don't know whether changing behaviour would improve memory. Although this result will cause us to think carefully about screen time, a lot more research is needed before we panic and closely measure TV time like a step counter.”
More studies on this subject will be conducted before any drastic lifestyle changes are suggested to older people. For now, you can continue to unwind in your free time whether that be relaxing in a walk-in shower or bath or watching your favourite TV shows.
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