Skip to main content

Watching too much TV may be bad for your brain, study suggests

netflix support behind the screens 110815
Image used with permission by copyright holder
We may be the Netflix-and-chill generation today, but if we’re not careful, we may become the plagued-with-serious-cognitive-issues generation in a few years. In news that is unsurprising but still a bit depressing (not to mention worrisome), your parents are finally going to be able to say “I told you so” when it comes to too much television. As it turns out, cognitive function is inversely related to time spent with eyes glued to television sets.

As per study results published in JAMA Psychiatry this week, individuals who spend the most time watching television and the least amount of time engaged in physical activity were the most likely to score poorly on cognitive tests. Led by Tina Hoang of the Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, the study followed 3,247 individuals over the course of 25 years. All participants were young adults (between the ages of 18 and 30) when the study began. The researchers checked in with their subjects every five years, asking them to estimate how much TV they watched on a day-to-day basis. And every two to five years, respondents gave researchers an idea of how much exercise they got.

When the study ended, the young adults had grown into middle-aged Americans, and all took tests to measure memory, focus, and mental and physical acuity.

“High television viewing and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with worse midlife executive function and processing speed,” Hoang and Yaffe concluded. In fact, those who watched over three hours of TV daily were twice as likely to underperform on mental processing speed and executive function tests.

Of course, it’s difficult to directly attribute poor test performance to frequency of television watching (though there are numerous studies that suggest that long periods of inactivity can’t be good for your health). And because the researchers didn’t measure their participants’ mental abilities at the start of the test, there’s no distinctive benchmark against which to compare their final results. Moreover, the scientists did not differentiate between types of television programs consumed — after all, there must be a difference between watching three hours of Nova or the History Channel and three hours of the Jersey Shore or The Bachelorette.

Still, the study raises important questions about the link between high levels of media consumption and human behavior. And if we’re going to keep Netflixing and chilling, they’re questions we’ll need answers to, stat.

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
7 TV shows you need to watch in November
Jon Hamm in a sheriff's cowboy hat standing at a fence in a scene from Fargo season 5.

The holiday season is closing in on us quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be cleaning up after a big Thanksgiving turkey day and prepping for Christmas or the particular holiday you celebrate. This is also the time many of us slow down, relax, recharge, and spend quality time with the family before shifting back into full gear for the new year. It’s also the perfect time to immerse yourself in a new or returning show.

When it comes to TV shows you need to watch in November, they mostly include shows that are returning with new seasons. Notably, there’s a multi-Emmy-winning series about the Royal Family that is finally coming to an end. There’s also a new show based on a popular 2010 cult classic movie and a long-awaited reality show based on Netflix’s most popular foreign series that features the biggest cast and largest single cash prize ever in the history of the genre.
Invincible season 2 (November 3)
Invincible - Season 2 Teaser Trailer | Prime Video

Read more
Where to watch Too Hot to Handle season 5
where to watch too hot handle season 5 n s5 e1 00 25 24

In Netflix's Too Hot to Handle, 10 singles sign up for a dating show they think will result in unlimited hookups. One contestant believes he's going on a "floating sex palace." Too Hot to Handle begins every season as a fake dating show to trick the contestants into thinking they're about to have the time of their lives. Season 5's mock dating show, Love Overboard, is set on a beautiful yacht as the contestants believe it's a party tour of the Caribbean.

However, the fun doesn't last once LANA, the AI cone voiced by Desiree Burch, reveals itself, explaining the rules of Too Hot to Handle. The men and women must complete various workshops without conducting sexual activities, including kissing. If the contestants break the rules, the grand prize of $200,000 is reduced.

Read more
5 TV shows you need to watch in May 2023
Image of 4 people's heads in two different timelines in a promo photo from Class of '09 on FX on Hulu.

There are several shows returning with new seasons in May. including The Other Two on HBO Max (soon to be known simply as Max), The Great on Hulu, Stillwater and Prehistoric Planet on Apple TV+, and Mayans M.C., which will premiere its fifth and final season on FX on May 24.

But there are also exciting new shows coming to your favorite streaming services this month. From a prequel to Bridgerton to the return of The Muppets, a new dystopian drama, and a hilarious comedy starring Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, there’s a diverse selection from which to choose.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (May 4)
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story | Official Trailer | Netflix

Read more