This past weekend brought tidings of two studies that fall into the “well, duh” department. Both involve television.
No surprise, researchers found that kids who watch a lot of violence on TV will have a heightened risk of violent and antisocial behavior in adulthood.
And, no surprise, another study showed that people who watch a lot of TV and eat a lot of fast food have triple the risk of obesity as people with better diets and more active lives.
These results are so predictable that one might wonder why the studies were even done. But they add scientific credence to what most of us suspect about the influence of the powerful medium of television, which is still so new that a normal human life span has not elapsed since it came into widespread use.
The study on violence was done by psychologist L. Rowell Huesmann and others at the University of Michigan. Published in the journal Developmental Psychology, it tracked hundreds of participants from the ages of 6 to 9 into their early 20s.
Men who saw a lot of violent TV as kids were about twice as likely as other men to have gotten physical during arguments with their wives in the previous year. Women exposed to high levels of violent TV as kids were twice as likely as average to have thrown something at their husbands.
Other types of physical confrontations, crime and even moving traffic violations also were greater than normal for the people exposed to high levels of TV violence as kids.
The study ruled out the idea that innately violent people tend to be drawn to violent TV, leading to the conclusion that TV-watching itself was a formative factor.
The other study focused more on the amounts of fast food people ate, but TV-watching was a factor. People who eat fast food more than twice a week and spend at least 2 1/2 hours a day watching TV have triple the risk of obesity and pre-diabetic medical conditions, according to a study sponsored by Boston Children’s Hospital. The study was large — almost 4,000 people — and long, covering 15 years.
Again, no one should be shocked by these two studies. But they do help illustrate an old maxim about reaping what you sow. We have suspected for many years that too much TV, and the wrong kinds of it, are bad for us. Now, with those suspicions confirmed, a lot of us could benefit from some lifestyle changes.