Too much “screen time” for children is not healthy. Many research studies have shown this again and again. Time spent in front of the TV or the computer screen is sedentary time and this lack of physical exercise has been shown to cause obesity and cardiovascular problems in children, adolescents and adults. Now here is another good reason to decrease “screen time” – TV time has been associated to increased risk of developing asthma. These findings are based on data of more than 3,000 children whose respiratory health was followed up from birth up to 11.5 years of age. This group of children is a subgroup of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which has been following the long term health of 14,000 children and their parents in the UK.
The study monitored the respiratory health of the children, including symptoms of wheezing and asthma as well as lifestyle, including TV viewing habits.
The results of the study shows that
- 6% of children who had no asthma at age 3.5 years developed the respiratory problem at the age of 11.5 years.
- Children who spent more than two hours in front of the TV each day have double the risk of being diagnosed with asthma compared to those who had less screen time.
What is the link between TV time and asthma? The link is poorly understood but may be due to sedentary behaviour.
The authors believe that
“the relationship between physical activity, sedentary behaviour and asthma is complex. But they point out that recent research has suggested that breathing patterns in children may be associated with sedentary behaviour, sparking developmental changes in the lungs and subsequent wheezing.”
The results of the study are alarming especially since it only monitored for time spent watching TV. Since the study started in the 90s, screen time due to computer and video game use was not included in the study as they were not widespread then. However, with the rapid developments in technology, almost every adolescent in the developed world has a personal computer and/or a game console. Thus, screen time for children today is most likely more extended that it was 10 or 15 years. Unfortunately, more screen time means less physical activity, more sedentary time – and yes, more health problems. Obesity in children is on the rise. Asthma, too. Now we know why.