• The impact of television: a natural experiment


    This is a book from 1979! The study shows a 160% increase in physical agressions by second grade children in the two years following the introduction of television into a previously isolated town.

    The five research papers that comprise this document report on research into the impact of the inception of television reception on residents of a Canadian town, “Notel.” The introductory section tells how Notel and two other similar Canadian towns that already had television reception were studied just before Notel received television reception in 1973, and again two years later; the section also explains the cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons that were made in the research. The research papers separately outline findings on the impact of television on children’s aggressive behavior, reading skills, cognitive development, and sex role perceptions, as well as on residents’ participation in community activities. The findings presented suggest that television viewing may result in the following: increases in children’s physical and verbal aggression; decreases in reading skills, varying by sex and grade level; decreases in some cognitive skills; formation of more traditional sex role attitudes; and decreases in participation in community activities.

    And here is more recent evidence on the impact of television on life expectancy.

    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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