The cost of technology: a shortened lifespan?

Every hour spent watching TV shortens your lifespan by 22 minutes, Australian researchers say.  A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine surveyed over 10,000 Australians and their TV watching habits over the period 1999-2000 and found that the life expectancy for adults who watched TV was less than that of those who did not.

Concurrently, an NHS report released yesterday shows that the prevalence of diabetes has risen in the UK from 3.6% in 2005/6 to 4.3% in 2009/10.  Diabetes medication now accounts for 8.4% of the total cost of drugs prescribed in the UK, compared to 6.6% just 5 years ago.

What this all points to is a pervasive pattern of sedentary behaviour that has led to an increase in obesity, and obesity related diseases such as type II diabetes.  It’s not just the TV zombies, either.  It’s the adults glued to their computer screens all day at work only to come home to spend another 4-5 hours surfing the web.  It’s the children coming home from school to play video games with their friends online rather than seeing them in person.  It’s the teenagers texting through dinner on their smartphones and often, their parents doing the same.

The technology is not to blame, however.  Technological advances have the capacity to enhance our lives in fantastically useful ways.  At the click of a button, we could be video conferencing with a dear relative whom we would once have only been able to communicate with sporadically, and with just a few search words, we could access all the information we could ever want.  It’s the way that we use these devices that is important.  TV’s, computers, and phones are great tools for both work and fun, but there’s more to life than staring at a little glowing screen.  So unplug, power off, grab a brolly, and take a stroll – you might just live longer.

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