Children with bedroom TVs at significantly higher risk of being overweight

June 5, 2017, University College London
Credit: University College London

A UCL-led study of over 12,000 young children in the UK has revealed that 11-year-olds who had TVs in their bedroom at age 7 had a significantly higher body mass (BMI) and fat mass (FMI) and were more likely to be overweight compared to children who did not have a bedroom TV.

Girls who had a TV in their at age 7 were at an approximately 30% higher risk of being at age 11 compared to children who did not have a TV in their bedroom, and for boys the risk was increased by about 20%.  The study, published today in the International Journal of Obesity, took a range of other obesity-linked factors into consideration, such as household income, mothers' education, breastfeeding duration, physical activity and irregular bedtimes.  Mothers' BMI was also taken into account to represent the overall food environment in the household as well as potential genetic influences. In addition, children's BMI at age 3 was included to minimise the possibility of reverse causation - the possibility that being overweight in the first place leads to spending more time in front of a screen.

Dr Anja Heilmann (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) said, "Childhood obesity in the UK is a major public health problem. In England, about one third of all 11 year olds are overweight and one in five are obese.  Our study shows that there is a clear link between having a TV in the bedroom as a young child and being overweight a few years later.

"We found that having a TV in the child's bedroom was an for being overweight and increased in this nationally representative sample of UK children. Childhood obesity prevention strategies should consider TVs in children's bedrooms as a risk factor for obesity."

The research, which used data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), found that over half of the 12 556 children sampled had a TV in their bedroom at age 7. This finding is well in line with other recent UK reports on children's media use, which also suggest that children increasingly use portable devices such as tablets and laptops in their bedrooms.

The number of hours spent watching TV or DVDs was associated with increased body fatness among girls only, indicating a dose-response relationship where the more TV the girls watched, the more likely they were to be overweight. Part of the reason for this gender difference could be that already at this young age, girls are far less physically active than boys, as suggested by previous studies.

"The causes of overweight and obesity are complex and multiple. Screen time is part of the bigger picture and further research is needed among older and adolescents, as the use of screen-based media including computers, mobile phones and tablets increases with age." added Dr Heilmann.

Explore further: Could there be a better way to estimate body fat levels in children, adolescents?

More information: A Heilmann et al. Longitudinal associations between television in the bedroom and body fatness in a UK cohort study, International Journal of Obesity (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2017.129

Related Stories

Could there be a better way to estimate body fat levels in children, adolescents?

May 15, 2017
Reducing childhood obesity is an international effort and central to that effort is being able to accurately determine which children and adolescents are overweight. Body mass index (BMI) is used worldwide to screen for obesity, ...

Being overweight in childhood may heighten lifetime risk of depression

May 19, 2017
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity suggests that being overweight, especially from a young age, may substantially increase the lifetime risk of major depression.

Is early pregnancy BMI associated with increased risk of childhood epilepsy?

April 3, 2017
Increased risk for childhood epilepsy was associated with maternal overweight or obesity in early pregnancy in a study of babies born in Sweden, according to a study published online by JAMA Neurology.

Girls, boys and obesity

December 10, 2015
A recent study published in the Pediatric Obesity journal suggests that young girls who are either overweight or obese during childhood were more likely to remain obese as they progressed into young adulthood compared to ...

A trend reversal in childhood obesity—a decline in the BMI in 8-year-old boys

February 22, 2017
After decades of increasing childhood obesity, things are now going in the opposite direction. A study from Sahlgrenska Academy shows that among 8-year-old boys in Sweden, the percentage of boys suffering from overweight ...

Overweight mothers underestimate their children's weight

March 1, 2017
Mothers who are overweight or obese tend to underestimate the weights of their obese children, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Recommended for you

Bias keeps women with higher body weights away from the doctor: study

April 23, 2018
A study out of Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health linked past experiences with bias and discrimination and avoidance of doctors in women with higher body weights.

Fat cells seem to remember unhealthy diet

April 23, 2018
It only takes 24 hours for a so-called precursor fat cell to reprogram its epigenetic recipe for developing into a fat cell. This change occurs when the cell is put into contact with the fatty acid palmitate or the hormone ...

Wide waist with 'normal weight' bigger risk than obesity: study

April 20, 2018
People of "normal" weight who sport a wide waist are more at risk of heart problems than obese people, said researchers Friday, urging a rethink of healthy weight guidelines.

Lack of sleep leads to obesity in children and adolescents

April 16, 2018
Children who get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age are at a higher risk of developing obesity.

Getting kids to a good weight by 13 may help avoid diabetes

April 4, 2018
There may be a critical window for overweight kids to get to a healthy level. Those who shed their extra pounds by age 13 had the same risk of developing diabetes in adulthood as others who had never weighed too much, a large ...

Obesity is shifting cancer to young adults

March 26, 2018
A Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researcher has compiled evidence from more than 100 publications to show how obesity increases risk of 13 different cancers in young adults. The meta-analysis describes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.