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Link Between Watching Television and Obesity


Obesity has become one of the most rampant health issues among people of all ages in the United States. It is vital to understand what factors contribute to this problem, as obesity leads to multiple severe illnesses and lowers the quality of life (Zhang et al., 2015). One of the primary causes of obesity is a sedentary lifestyle, which often includes excessive screen watching periods (Guo et al., 2019). Scientists predict that up to 60% of morbidity and mortality outcomes will occur due to non-communicable diseases, which are often caused by obesity (Zhang et al., 2015). This research paper aims to prove that excessive television watching is linked to obesity among children and adults.

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Prevalence of Obesity

Obesity rates vary significantly among the population based on various socioeconomic factors. Both adults and children are affected by obesity, with over 20% of the world’s population have issues with excessive body weight (Rosiek et al., 2015). Over 40 million children across the globe are considered obese, and this epidemic continues to grow rapidly (Zhang et al., 2016). In the past decades, people’s primary activities have shifted towards a more passive lifestyle. Adults, on average, spend over half of their waking hours on sedentary activities (Rogerson et al., 2017). This effect is especially prominent in developed countries, such as the United States and European countries (Rosiek et al., 2015). However, developing countries also suffer from this issue due to globalization, for example, through mass cheap food production (Rosiek et al., 2015). Obesity rates continue to grow, and this fact implies the need for a significant change in society.

There are other factors that contribute to obesity, yet television watching is one of the primary markers for the prediction of excessive body weight. Even though genes do contribute to the development of obesity, this susceptibility can be regulated by making healthy lifestyle choices (Hruby et al., 2016). In the United States, the young generation has the highest exposure to screens, which makes them the most vulnerable population (Kenney & Gortmaker, 2017). This prevalence signifies that it is essential to begin the much-needed change in lifestyle within youth.

Excessive television watching causes numerous effects, the combination of which leads to poor health of the population. Rogerson et al. (2017) state that “high TV viewing is associated with low household income, low education, poor self-rated health, and the consumption of energy-dense snack foods” (p. 4). Watching television is an inexpensive and easily accessible activity, which makes it the most prevalent issue amongst low socioeconomic status (Rogerson et al., 2016). In addition to this, high-calory food and drinks are also cheap and are regularly promoted among this population (Rosiek et al., 2015). It is essential to focus on this part of the community when creating policies that aim to alleviate the issue.

Television itself promotes unhealthy habits by promoting products that lead to poor health. Studies show that children who watch television for prolonged periods have higher BMI, which leads to a decrease in both mental and physical health (Rosiek et al., 2015). Screen-viewing is often associated with larger sugar intake, primarily due to the higher exposure to advertisements for unhealthy food and drinks (Kenney & Gortmaker, 2017). Mindless eating while watching television is one of the most prominent unhealthy behaviors that is promoted by advertisements (Avery et al., 2017). Researchers also discovered that people tend to eat an excessive amount of salty snacks and fast food when watching television outside of regular dinner time, which also breaks habitual food intake control (Kenney & Gortmaker, 2017). Television watching and other screen-viewing activities have an adverse impact on sleep cycles, both directly, making people stay up for longer, and indirectly, causing people to lose sleep due to eating at inappropriate times (Kenney & Gortmaker, 2017). The combination of these factors leads to an increase in adverse health effects.

Risks Associated with Obesity

There are numerous risks that arise from having an excessive BMI, many of which can significantly decrease the quality of life. These effects vary depending on the age of the affected individual. The most impairing and deadly risks are prominent in older people, however, childhood obesity leads to early exposure to these risks (Guo et al., 2019). Obesity is one of the primary causes of premature deaths, chronic morbidities, and lower quality of life (Hruby et al., 2016). Relative risks grow exponentially with increased BMI while normalizing one’s body weight decreases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and multiple types of cancer (Hruby et al., 2016). These risks become more prominent with age, especially if a person leads a sedentary lifestyle (Rogerson et al., 2016). Moreover, Rogerson et al. (2016) highlight “the prevalence of excessive TV viewing in people with CVD, particularly amongst older people from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds,” which is especially harmful to this risk group (p. 12). Older people must take more significant concern regarding their physical activities and diet to avoid these outcomes.

However, these statistics do not imply that excessive body weight in younger people has a lower impact. Zhang et al. (2016) state that “childhood obesity is linked to diabetes, asthma and sleep disorders” (p. 13). Tahir et al. (2019) state concludes that “television viewing at least 4 hours/day in childhood may be associated with higher odds of overweight/obesity throughout life” (p. 291). In young people, disturbances in sleeping cycles, the lack of physical activity, and inappropriate diet can also lead to depression and other mental health problems, as well as lower their grades (Kenney & Gortmaker, 2016). Childhood obesity leads to further incline toward an unhealthy lifestyle, weakens the immunity system, and causes preliminary deaths.

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In conclusion, excessive screen watch has a direct adverse effect on body weight. Parents have a strong influence on the dietary choices and the amount of screen-viewing time that their children are allowed to have, making them responsible for promoting healthy behavior (Avery et al., 2017). It is vital for parents to follow these habits as well, and to limit their television watching to set an example. Guo et al. (2019) state that “the United States and other high-income countries have mainly focused on physical activity promotion and have issued health guidelines,” but do not actively focus on people with sedentary lifestyles (p. 89). There are multiple ways to change one’s lifestyle to avoid weight gain. Primary ways to prevent obesity are physical exercise and a proper diet, which can be unattainable for people who follow a sedimentary lifestyle (Guo et al., 2019). More research regarding influencing people’s lifestyles is required, and the current prevalence of this disease calls for more drastic measures to prevent its spread. Obesity is a significant issue in modern society, and the efforts to eradicate it are not enough.


Avery, A., Anderson, C., & McCullough, F. (2017). Associations between children’s diet quality and watching television during meal or snack consumption: A systematic review. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 13(4). Web.

Guo, C., Zhou, Q., Zhang, D., Qin, P., Li, Q., Tian, G., Liu, D., Chen, X., Liu, L., Liu, F., Cheng, C., Qie, R., Han, M., Huang, S., Wu, X., Zhao, Y., Ren, Y., Zhang, M., Liu, Y., … Hu, D. (2019). Association of total sedentary behavior and television viewing with risk of overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension: A dose-response meta‐analysis. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 22(1), 79-90. Web.

Hruby, A., Manson, J. E., Qi, L., Malik, V. S., Rimm, E. B., Sun, Q., Walter, C. W., & Hu, F. B. (2016). Determinants and Consequences of Obesity. American Journal of Public Health, 106(9), 1656–1662.

Kenney, E. L., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2017). United States adolescents’ television, computer, Videogame, smartphone, and tablet use: Associations with sugary drinks, sleep, physical activity, and obesity. The Journal of Pediatrics, 182, 144-149. 

Rogerson, M. C., Le Grande, M. R., Dunstan, D. W., Magliano, D. J., Murphy, B. M., Salmon, J., Gardiner, P. A., & Jackson, A. C. (2017). Television viewing time and 13-Year mortality in adults with cardiovascular disease: Data from Australian diabetes, obesity and lifestyle study (AusDiab). Heart, Lung and Circulation, 26(11). Web.

Rosiek, A., Maciejewska, N., Leksowski, K., Rosiek-Kryszewska, A., & Leksowski, Ł. (2015). Effect of television on obesity and excess of weight and consequences of health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(8), 9408-9426. 

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Tahir, M. J., Willett, W., & Forman, M. R. (2018). The association of television viewing in childhood with overweight and obesity throughout the life course. American Journal of Epidemiology, 188(2), 282-293. 

Zhang, G., Wu, L., Zhou, L., Lu, W., & Mao, C. (2015). Television watching and risk of childhood obesity: A meta-analysis. The European Journal of Public Health, 26(1), 13-18. Web.

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