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Put Warning Labels On TVs?
Written by February 23, 2009

Gina Cortese-Shipley, MS

Associate Director of Education
The Cooper Institute

body mass index
physical activity
tv watching
Put Warning Labels On TVs?


Back in the 1960’s the feds made cigarette manufacturers put a warning label on cigarette packages stating “Smoking may be hazardous to your health.”   Maybe we should put a similar warning, “TV watching may be hazardous to your health,” on television sets.  Here is one reason why.

Using data from a very large prospective study of African-American women, researchers recently showed that the more hours of TV watched per day, the higher the risk of the women being diagnosed with diabetes during the 10-year follow-up period.  Women who watched 5 hours or more of TV per day were nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as women who watched less than an hour of TV each day.  And this is after controlling for confounding variables such as age, education level, income, calorie intake, and family history.  We have blogged previously about how television watching is associated with increased body mass index (BMI).  This study showed that risk of diabetes increased in this study group for ALL levels of BMI. So even people with a “healthy” BMI who watched a lot of TV were at increased risk of developing diabetes. 

Also, this study demonstrated that risk of diabetes was reduced dramatically for women who regularly (an hour or more than per week) did moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity compared to sedentary women.  Again, this association held true regardless of their BMI. 

What did the researcher find when they analyzed the data on TV watching and physical activity together?  Women who did no vigorous exercise and watched 5 or more hours of TV daily had 3½ times the risk of diabetes as women who did 3 or more hours of physical activity per week and did not watch television at all. 

So maybe any health warning label we put on TVs in the future should read, “TV watching AND being a couch potato may be REALLY hazardous to your health.”

What are your ideas for health warning labels we could put on TVs? Put them in the comments section below.


Krishnan S, Rosenberg L, and Palmer JR.  Physical activity and television walking in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes:  The Black women’s health study.  American Journal of Epidemiology.  2009;169:428-434. 

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