Watching lots of TV may worsen memory in older people

Watching lots of TV may worsen(ˈwərsən) memory in older people

By Clare(kle(ə)r) Wilson(ˈwilsən)

It is normally children whose screen time comes under fire(fīr) – but should we be more worried about their grandparents? The more TV that older people watch, the more their memory declines(dəˈklīn) over the next few years on average.

Previous studies have found links between TV viewing(ˈvyo͞oiNG) and older people’s physical(ˈfizikəl) and mental(ˈmentl) abilities, but this is usually put down to the fact that watching TV involves sitting(ˈsidiNG) down, and it is unhealthy(ˌənˈhelTHē) to be sedentary(ˈsednˌterē) for long periods(ˈpi(ə)rēəd) of time. But Daisy(ˈdāzē) Fancourt of University College London wondered if there was something more going on.

Her team looked at results from a large study of 3600 people with an average age of 67 at the start, called the English Longitudinal(ˌlänjəˈt(y)o͞od(ə)nəl) Study of Ageing. Starting in 2008, participants(pärˈtisəpənt) had an array(əˈrā) of health(helTH) and cognitive(ˈkäɡnədiv) tests, and answered questions about their lifestyle, then went through it again six years later(ˈlādər).

As expected, people who sat in front of the box for longer had a bigger decline in their ability to remember words. Those who watched TV for more than 3.5 hours a day had a fall in their verbal(ˈvərbəl) memory of between 8 and 10 per cent, compared with a 4 to 5 per cent decline for those who saw less than that.