When you arrive home after a hard day’s work, sometimes there is nothing better than relaxing on the sofa in front of the television. But you better not watch it for too long; 3 hours or more of TV watching a day could double the risk of premature death, according to a new study.

The research team, led by Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez of the Department of Public Health at the University of Navarra in Spain, recently published their findings in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Past research has established a link between sedentary behavior and increased risk of health problems. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that sedentary behavior may increase the risk of heart failure, while a 2013 study found it could even lower sperm quality among young men.

In this latest study, researchers wanted to determine how three types of sedentary behavior – television watching, computer use and driving – independently influenced the risk of death from all causes.

To reach their findings, the team analyzed the sedentary behavior of 13,284 healthy Spanish university graduates who were an average age of 37. Participants were monitored for a median of 8.2 years.

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Do you watch too much TV? Researchers say watching TV for 3 or more hours a day could double the risk of early death from all causes.

During follow-up, 97 deaths occurred, of which 19 were from cardiovascular causes, 46 were from cancer and 32 were from other causes.

The study results revealed that participants who reported watching 3 or more hours of television each day had double the risk of early death from all causes, compared with participants who reported watching 1 hour or less of television a day.

This finding remained even after taking other factors into account that may have influenced the risk of early death.

The researchers say they found no significant link between the amount of time spent driving and using a computer and increased risk of premature death from all causes, although they note that further research is needed to better determine this finding.

According to the investigators, their study findings are significant since more than 50% of adults in the US report leading sedentary lives. A 2013 study published in JAMA also revealed that older women spend around 10 hours a day sedentary.

Martinez-Gonzalez says:

As the population ages, sedentary behaviors will become more prevalent, especially watching television, and this poses an additional burden on the increased health problems related to aging.

Our findings suggest adults may consider increasing their physical activity, avoid long sedentary periods and reduce television watching to no longer than 1-2 hours each day.”

It is not just adult health that is affected by watching television. In May, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that children who spend more than 2 hours in front of a TV, computer or video game each day have an increased risk of high blood pressure.

An earlier study published in JAMA Pediatrics also found that children who have TVs in their bedroom are more likely to become obese.