Excessive screen time increases heart disease risk

24 May 2018, 05:56

computer screen time laptop

Too much time looking at TV and computer screens puts unfit people at a higher risk of heart disease, a study has found.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow looked at 390,089 participants from the UK Biobank and analysed the time they spent looking at a screen during leisure time, termed discretionary screen time.

They found that the association between a high level of discretionary screen time and adverse health outcomes was almost twice as strong in those with low fitness levels.

Discretionary screen time is said to be an important contributor to overall sedentary behaviour, which is associated with higher risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Jason Gill, one of the lead authors of the study, said: "Our study shows that the risks associated with sedentary behaviour may not be the same for everyone, with the association between leisure time screen use and adverse health outcomes being strongest in those with low levels of physical activity, fitness or strength.

"This has potential implications for public health guidance as, if the findings are causal, these data suggest that specifically targeting those with low fitness and strength to reduce their sedentary behaviour may be an effective approach."

The researchers also found that higher levels of screen time were associated with a higher risk of "all-cause mortality" as well as a higher risk of both heart disease and cancer.

The findings were independent of physical activity, grip strength, BMI, smoking, diet and other major confounding factors, including socio-economic status.

Study author Dr Carlos Celis said: "If the discretionary screen time health associations we found in this study are causal, it suggests that people with the lowest levels of strength, fitness and physical activity could potentially gain the greatest benefit from health promotion interventions aimed at reducing sedentary behaviours.

"While fitness testing can be difficult to measure in healthcare and community settings, grip strength is a quick, simple and cheap to measure, so could easily be implemented as a screening tool in a variety of settings."

The study is published this week in BMC Medicine.