Dementia: ‘Passive’ activities such as watching TV increase your risk


It’s well known that a sedentary lifestyle is awful for your health. The risk of cardiovascular diseases increases by double, and anxiety and depression risk bump up, states the World Health Organisation. But a new study suggests that certain sedentary activities may increase your risk of dementia.

The study, published in the journal PNAS found that doing passive activities that involve little use of your brain – such as watching TV – increases your risk of dementia coming from any cause.

This was in contrast to people who were also sedentary but activated their brains by using a computer. People who did more of this activity were less likely to develop dementia.

Doctor Mats Hallgreen, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden told Medical News Today: “In the context of dementia, [the study] shows differential associations between two types of SB [sedentary behaviour] which might be categorized as mentally passive, TV viewing, and mentally active, computer use.”

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Dementia is the umbrella term for people whose ability to remember, think and make decisions is limited so they have trouble every day.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form although dementia can also occur after traumatic brain injury and stroke (vascular dementia).

Researchers in the study looked at the health records of 146,651 participants in the UK Biobank database to identify patterns between people who developed dementia.

The academics tracked participants over the age of 60 – with an average age of 64 and a half and hadn’t developed dementia when their data was entered into the biobank.


The TV usage of the individuals was measured over an average of 11.87 years. At the end of this period, roughly 3,500 people had dementia.

The study concluded: “High levels of cognitively passive SB [sedentary behaviour] (TV) were associated with increased risk of dementia, while high levels of cognitively active SB [sedentary behaviour] (computer) were associated with reduced risk of dementia.

“These relationships remained strong regardless of PA levels.”

The study doesn’t provide a causal link between dementia and doing passive, sedentary activities.

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Alzheimer’s Society explained: “The person [with dementia] may be more anxious, frightened or sad, and so at risk of depression.

“It is also common to become more irritable – perhaps in frustration at lost abilities – or easily upset.

“A person can often be more withdrawn, lack self-confidence and lose interest in hobbies or people.”

The symptoms are normally mild during the early stages of the disease but will become more noticeable as the condition progresses.



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