Can TV Dumb You Down?


Can TV Dumb You Down?

Older adults who watched more than three and half hours of television a day had lower scores on tests of verbal memory,

Experts generally agree that watching a lot of television is bad for children. Now a new study suggests it may not be very good for adults, either.

The British study, in Scientific Reports, included 3,590 people, average age 67, who were free of dementia at the start of the study. All reported their TV watching time at the study’s start.

Participants took two tests. One was of verbal memory, in which they were asked to recall, after a short delay, a list of spoken words. The second was a test of semantic fluency, in which researchers timed them reciting the names of as many animals as they could. Researchers administered the tests at the start and then again six years later.

They found that people who watched more than three and half hours of television a day had an average decrease of 8 to 10 percent in their verbal memory scores, compared with a 4 to 5 percent decrease in those who watched less. There was no association of TV watching with semantic fluency. The study controlled for education, medical conditions, physical activity and other factors.

“This is not something to worry about,” said the lead author, Daisy Fancourt, a researcher at University College London. “But if you’re watching more than three hours a day, it’s worth trying to engage in social and physical activities and things that are mentally challenging like crosswords or the arts activities.”


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