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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Pittsburgh Links TV Viewing to Obesity and Violence in Two Separate Studies

People with hostile personality traits who watch more television than their peers may be at a greater risk for injury, potentially because they are more susceptible to the influence of television on violence and risk-taking behaviors, a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analysis discovered.

The research, published online in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, suggests that a reduction in television viewing and content rating systems geared not just to age, but also personality traits, may reduce injury risk.

“Television viewing is very pervasive, with televisions in almost 99 percent of American households. And injuries cause more than half the deaths among people ages 1 through 44. This means that even modest reductions in television viewing, particularly among people predisposed to hostility, could have major positive outcomes for public health,” said lead author Dr. Anthony Fabio, assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health.

In an additional, separate analysis, Pitt Public Health also found that the more hours young adults spend watching television each day, the greater the likelihood that they’ll have a higher body mass index and bigger waist circumference

The association did not hold in later years, indicating that young adulthood is an important time to intervene and promote less television viewing, according to the research published online in the journal SAGE Open.

“We were quite surprised to find that television viewing was associated with subsequent obesity for young adults, but not for the middle-aged,” said Dr. Fabio. “This suggests that middle-aged adults may differ from young adults in how they respond to the influence of TV viewing.”

Both studies used data from thousands of adults recruited from Birmingham, AL, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland, CA, who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. For 15 years starting in 1990, the participants reported their television viewing habits and had their waist circumference measured and their body mass index (a measure of weight and height that can indicate obesity) calculated every five years. They also completed in-depth questionnaires to assess their personality traits, and researchers recorded all injuries requiring hospitalizations.

For more information, visit http://www.upmc.com/media/NewsReleases/2015/Pages/fabio-tv-combo.aspx.