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Too much TV causes death from 'economy-class syndrome': researchers

People who watch television for long periods of time are at a higher risk of dying from pulmonary embolisms -- blockages in the blood vessels of the lungs -- a team of researchers at Osaka University has found.

    Between 1988 and 1990, researchers gathered approximately 86,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 79 as their subjects, surveyed them on the number of hours they spent watching television and their other daily activities, and tracked them for some 20 years.

    By the end of 2009, the researchers found that 59 people had died from pulmonary embolisms. Pulmonary embolisms can occur after a person stays in the same position for long periods of time, resulting in the formation of blood clots -- commonly known as economy-class syndrome.

    Because people tend to maintain the same position when watching television, the research team focused on the hours subjects spent doing so. In addition to hours spent watching TV, researchers analyzed the effects of age, as well as the use of alcohol and tobacco products, and found that people who watched at least 2 1/2 hours but less than five hours of TV a day were 1.7 times more likely to die than those who watched TV less than 2 1/2 hours a day. Furthermore, those who watched five hours or more of television in a day were 2.5 times more likely to die than those who watched less than 2 1/2 hours of TV per day.

    "Twenty-five percent of Japanese people watch five or more hours of television a day," says Toru Shirakawa, a specially appointed researcher of public health at Osaka University and a member of the research team. "I advise that they get up and walk around once an hour, or massage their calves."

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