Could watching too much television be deadly? A new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2015 meeting is the first to examine the association between prolonged television watching and fatal pulmonary embolism (PE).

The study included over 86,000 participants and lasted over 18 years; researchers had subjects fill out a questionnaire about average television watching time per day. Participants were then divided into three groups based on length of television watching: <2.5 hours, 2.5–4.9 hours, and >5 hours per day. Risk of death from PE according to length of television watching was calculated after adjusting for other factors; mortality from PE was identified from death certificates.

Compared to those who watched television an average of <2.5 hours daily, people who who watched >5 hours per day had twice the risk of fatal PE (hazard ratio [HR]=2.3). In people <60 years old, those who watched television >5 hours per day had a six-fold risk of fatal PE (HR=6.49), while those who watched 2.5–4.9 hours had a 3-fold risk (HR=3.14), compared to those who watched for <2.5 hours.

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“We showed that prolonged television viewing may be a risky behavior for death from pulmonary embolism,” said Toru Shirakawa, public health research fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Osaka University in Japan. “Leg immobility during television viewing may in part explain the finding. In this era of information technology, use of other visual based media devices such as personal computers or smartphones is popular. Prolonged computer gaming has been associated with death from pulmonary embolism but to our knowledge a relationship with prolonged smartphone use has not yet been reported.”

The authors conclude that more research needs to be done to assess the risks associated with prolonged technology use on PE morbidity and mortality.

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