Extensive Television Watching Increases Pulmonary Embolism Risk

Watching TV Increases Risk for Pulmonary Embolism
Watching TV Increases Risk for Pulmonary Embolism
Prolonged television watchers have an increased risk of pulmonary embolism mortality.

Individuals who watch television continuously for more than five hours a day have a higher risk of fatal pulmonary embolism, according to findings presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2015 Congress.

Individuals who spend extensive time sitting or on bed rest are at a higher risk for pulmonary embolism, including those who spend hours watching television every day, researchers found. “The association between prolonged sitting and pulmonary embolism was first reported among air raid shelter users in London during World War II,” said Toru Shirakawa, a research fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Osaka University in Japan. “Nowadays, a long haul flight in an economy class seat is a well known cause of pulmonary embolism that is called ‘economy class syndrome.’”

He and colleagues conducted a study to examine how lifestyle affects morbidity and mortality through the prolonged sitting patterns of 86,024 people. The participants, aged 40 to 79 years, took a baseline survey that assessed the number of hours spent watching television per day in 1988 as a part of the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study.

The participants were divided into three groups: those who watched fewer than 2.5 hours of television per day, those who watched 2.5 to 4.9 hours, and those who watched five or more hours. The researchers calculated the risk of pulmonary embolism fatality using length of television watching after adjusting for age at the start of the study, gender, body mass index, sports habits, menopausal status, and any history of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, or drinking.

During the 18-year follow-up period, there were 59 deaths from pulmonary embolism. Watching television for two or more hours per day was associated with increased risk for pulmonary embolism mortality (hazard ratio 1.75; P = .06) 

Participants 60 years of age or younger who watched television for 2.5 to 4.9 hours per day had triple the risk for pulmonary embolism (HR = 3.14). Those aged 60 years or younger who watched more than five hours a day had a six-fold increased risk of pulmonary embolism compared to those who watched 2.5 hours per day (HR = 6.49).

“In this era of information technology, use of other visual based media devices such as personal computers or smartphones is popular. Prolonged computer gaming has been associated with death from pulmonary embolism but to our knowledge a relationship with prolonged smartphone use has not yet been reported,” said Shirakawa.

One in four people in Japan watch more than five hours of television every day. To lower the risk of pulmonary embolism, the public must be advised to take a break, stand up and walk around when watching television for extensive periods of time. Drinking water to prevent dehydration can also lower risk factors.

Shirakawa stated that public awareness of pulmonary embolism from lengthy leg immobility is essential. “More research is needed to assess the risks of prolonged use of new technologies on pulmonary embolism morbidity and mortality,” he said.


  1. Shirakawa T, Iso H, Ikehara S, Tamakoshi A. Abstract # P2686. Watching Television and Pulmonary Embolism Mortality. Paper presented at: European Society of Cardiology 2015 Congress; August 29, 2015; London, United Kingdom.