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Exporting The Couch Potato Lifestyle (And Obesity) Via TV, Computers, Cars

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A new study finds that the luxuries of modern life come at an extremely high cost: a greater chance of becoming obese or developing diabetes.

Researchers report that in lower-income countries, ownership of a household device — including a car, computer or TV — significantly "increased the likelihood of obesity and diabetes."  Specifically, owning these items was "associated with decreased physical activity and increased sitting, dietary energy intake, body mass index and waist circumference." Of the three "devices," owning a TV had the strongest association with the bad health outcomes.

In poorer countries, such big-ticket items are clearly less prevalent than in rich countries, however they are fast becoming more ubiquitous. And so, apparently, are the ills associated with sitting around watching TV, typing on a computer and driving.

Here's more from the news release:

The spread of obesity and type-2 diabetes could become epidemic in low-income countries, as more individuals are able to own higher priced items such as TVs, computers and cars. The findings of an international study, led by Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Scott Lear, are published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Lear headed an international research team that analyzed data on more than 150,000 adults from 17 countries, ranging from high and middle income to low-income nations.

Researchers, who questioned participants about ownership as well as physical activity and diet, found a 400 per cent increase in obesity and a 250 per cent increase in diabetes among owners of these items in low-income countries.

The study also showed that owning all three devices was associated with a 31 per cent decrease in physical activity, 21 per cent increase in sitting and a 9 cm increase in waist size compared with those who owned no devices.

Comparatively, researchers found no association in high-income countries, suggesting that the effects of owning items linked to sedentary lifestyles has already occurred, and is reflected in current high rates of these conditions.

“With increasing uptake of modern-day conveniences–TVs, cars, computers–low- and middle-income countries could see the same obesity and diabetes rates as in high-income countries that are the result of too much sitting, less physical activity and increased consumption of calories,” says Lear, who also holds the SFU Pfizer/Heart & Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital.

The results can lead to “potentially devastating societal health care consequences” in these countries, Lear adds. Rates of increase of obesity and diabetes are expected to rise as low- and middle-income countries develop and become more industrialized.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Health Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for Bostonomix.

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