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Watching TV leads to a decline in memory in people over 50

There is nothing we value more than our mind. We want to be smart and we want to surround ourselves with smart people. We would do anything to make our minds healthy, but there are certain things that do not help our cognitive function and memory. Scientists from UCL found that watching TV for more than 3.5 hours per day can lead to a decline in verbal memory.

Watching TV prevents people from partaking in more stimulating, productive activities, such as reading. Image credit: Bart Everson via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Scientists analysed data from 3,662 adults aged 50 and over. Participants were asked in 2008/9 and in 2014/15 about how much television they watched on a daily basis. Their verbal memory was also assessed. People in this age group are particularly interested in TV – younger adults typically spend more time on the internet. Researchers found that spending hours just watching TV can be linked to an 8-10 % decline in memory of words and language over the following six years. Even people who watched TV for less than 3.5 hours per day experienced a 4-5 % decline in their ability to remember words.

Scientists were hypothesizing TV to have this affect for 25 years, but so far only some studies with children were completed. But why and how TV impacts the verbal memory? Scientists think that part of the problem is that TV occupies a significant amount of time, preventing people from doing more beneficial activities, such as reading. In fact, even gaming would be a good idea – researchers found that interactive activities can have cognitive benefits such as improved problem-solving skills.

Scientists are still not sure how bad TV actually is. Could it be one of the factors for early dementia? Does it matter what kind of content people are watching? Scientists remind that cognitive decline is not the same as dementia. You can reverse this process by reading. You can improve your verbal memory if you replace activities like watching TV with something more productive like reading or having discussions.

Older people watch more TV due to a generation change and technological evolution. But people actually get less interested in TV as dementia progresses. Daisy Fancourt, co-author of the study, said: “television viewing remains high in care homes where residents have less autonomy or control over their own viewing, but the desire to watch television naturally declines amongst people with dementia as soon as symptoms of the disease become evident, suggesting that it becomes less rewarding as cognition gets worse”.

You should seek replacing your harmful habits with good ones. TV is one of those to be replaces. Make a choice now and turn it off. Instead, pick up a book or solve a crosswords puzzle. Even playing a video game is not such a bad idea, especially if it is designed to stimulate your mind.

 

Source: UCL


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