Spending more time watching television has been found to be contributing to the decline in verbal memory of people aged 50 and above. 

A new study, published in the journal Nature, showed that older adults struggled to recall a list of words after a long-term habit of watching TV for more than 3.5 hours a day. The findings come from the analysis of data on 3,662 adults aged 50 and older from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

Researchers said they looked at longitudinal associations between baseline television watching between 2008 and 2009 and the subjects’ cognition six years after the study started. 

During the study, the team asked participants to listen to a recording of 10 common words and to remember as many words as they could. The group took the tests in two periods, one in the beginning of the study and the other was provided six years later. 

The findings show that the older adults who watched more than 3.5 hours of TV daily between 2008 and 2009 appeared with a higher risk to experience a decline in verbal memory. The researchers also noted going beyond the 3.5-hour threshold a day resulted to worse verbal memory.

However, the team did not determine the direct link between long-term TV exposure and the cognitive decline. The researchers said TV might cause mental stress that potentially contributed to memory loss. They added more research are needed to further determine the impact of TV exposure or watching habits on older adults.  

“Despite it having been hypothesised for over 25 years that watching excessive television can contribute to the development of dementia, this theory still remains underexplored empirically,” the researchers said. 

In an earlier study of middle-aged people, researchers at the Northern California Institute for Research and Education found that too much TV could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

Combined with sedentary lifestyles, four hours or more per day of watching TV could affect cognitive performance and accelerate the development of dementia, the Washington Post reported.

Donald Trump A new study shows watching TV for 3.5 hours or more a day could affect the verbal memory of older adults. Pictured: People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast of US President Donald Trump's press conference following the second summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un held in Hanoi, at a railway station in Seoul on Feb. 28, 2019. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images