If one of your weekly activities include kicking back and binge-watching television shows, you may want to find a new hobby. A new study in the Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis revealed the risk of blood clots may significantly rise in individuals who spend extended periods in front of the television.  

Venous thromboembolism (VTE), a blood clot that often forms in the veins of the leg, was found to be associated with long hours of sedentary TV viewing habits. With progression, it can travel and affect circulation in the lungs, potentially leading to death.

The study, conducted by the University of Minnesota, took place over a period of 24 years starting from 1987. It aimed at identifying the link between TV viewing habits and VTE, which occurs more in Western populations than Asian populations. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first prospective study investigating the association between TV viewing and incident VTE in a Western population," stated the article.

Researchers analyzed more than 15,000 participants who were mostly White Americans or African Americans. They hailed from four American communities — Washington County, Maryland; Forsyth County, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Home interviews and clinical examinations were used to measure "demographic characteristics, cardiovascular conditions, and health behaviors."

Records revealed 691 incidents of VTE among the participants up to 2011. The ones who watched TV "very often" were 1.7 times more likely to suffer from VTE compared to those who "never" or "seldom" watched TV.

Dr. Yasuhiko Kubota, the leading researcher of the study, explained that the harmful effect of binge-watching remained unchanged even in the cases of more active individuals. "These results suggest that even individuals who regularly engage in physical activity should not ignore the potential harms of prolonged sedentary behaviors such as TV viewing,” he said in a statement. 

“Avoiding frequent TV viewing, increasing physical activity and controlling body weight might be beneficial to prevent VTE,” he added.

In terms of limitations, the study acknowledged the scope of the project meant that the time spent watching TV had to be reported by the participants. In other words, qualitative figures of frequency were used as there was no way to ensure their absolute accuracy. 

In 2016, scientists published a similar study which surveyed 90,000 people in Japan over the course of 20 years. Unsurprisingly, the results of that study also indicated that binge-watchers had a 70% higher chance of developing the blood clot than people who did not spend long hours seated to watch shows. 

The emergence of streaming platforms has led to an increase in binge-watching culture where people finish viewing multiple episodes (and sometimes, multiple seasons!) of a televison show in one sitting. Up to 300,000 people suffer from VTE in the United States each year, with the risk being the highest among adults over 60. Meanwhile, children are at risk the least.