In adults aged 50 and over, watching television for more than 3.5 hours a day may be associated with a decline in verbal memory, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
Daisy Fancourt and Andrew Steptoe investigated whether television viewing was associated with a decline in verbal memory (memory of words and language) six years later. The researchers used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, a nationally representative study of adults aged 50 years and over, involving 3,662 participants. They found that watching for more than 3.5 hours per day was associated with a decline in verbal memory over the following six years. The association appears to be independent of time spent sitting down. Previous research had mostly considered television watching as a proxy for sedentary behaviour.
The authors considered possible explanations for the decline in verbal memory associated with watching television. They suggest that watching television reduces the amount of time that people spend on activities that could contribute to cognitive preservation, such as reading. Other screen-based activities that are more interactive, such as video gaming and using the internet, can have cognitive benefits such as improved problem-solving skills. The alert-but-passive nature of television watching, may create cognitive stress, which could contribute to memory decline, according to the authors.