WATCHING too much telly rots older Brits’ brains – and may fuel dementia.
A study found spending more than three-and-a-half hours daily glued to TV favourites, such as Coronation Street, doubled memory decline in over-50s.
Scientists claim couch potatoes may be harmed by missing out on other brain boosting activities, such as reading a newspaper.
Just passively observing the screen – without interacting – may also stress an OAP’s mind.
A team from University College London followed more than 3,600 over-50s for six years.
Screen addicts saw their “verbal memory” decline by around 10 per cent over that period.
But participants watching less than 3.5 hours daily only saw a five per cent reduction.
Experts concluded too much telly seemed to be fuelling brain power loss.
Worryingly, two in three older Brits are glued to their TV for more than 3.5 hours a day.
Adults over the age of 50 should try and ensure television viewing is balanced with other activities, such as reading a newspaper, listening to music or social interaction
Dr Daisy Fancourt
Researcher Dr Daisy Fancourt said the findings raise questions about television viewing as a dementia risk.
She said: “There has been interest for over a decade in the effect of television viewing behaviours on cognition, but much of this literature has concentrated on children.
“Much less attention has been paid to the effects of television viewing at the other end of the lifespan, despite it being hypothesised for over 25 years that watching excessive television could contribute to the development of dementia.
“Overall this suggests that adults over the age of 50 should try and ensure television viewing is balanced with other activities, such as reading a newspaper, listening to music or social interaction.”
On average, over-50s spent five hours and 18 minute daily watching TV.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is one of the first to look at the effect of television viewing on older Brits’ brainpower.
Dr Bob Patton, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Surrey University, said: “The research sends a clear message that while there are positive benefits to television viewing, that older adults should be mindful that too much may have negative consequences.
“While TV may not rot the brain as traditional wisdom may suggest, even moderate watching is associated with some very real changes among viewers aged over 50.”
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Chris Allen, from the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said: “If you’re concerned that the amount of television you’re watching could be having a negative impact on your health, we would advise limiting the amount of TV you watch each day.”
James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, says: “This study does not indicate that watching TV causes dementia.
“However, we know that if you want to lower your risk of developing the condition, time spent binge watching your favourite boxset could be better used exercising, catching up with loved ones or learning a new hobby.”
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