Excessive television viewing in childhood has been associated with adverse effects on health and behavior. A common concern is that watching too much television may also have a negative impact on education. However, no long-term studies have measured childhood viewing and educational achievement.
To explore these associations in a birth cohort followed up to adulthood.
Prospective birth cohort study.
Dunedin, New Zealand.
Approximately 1000 unselected individuals born between April 1, 1972, and March 31, 1973. Ninety-six percent of the living cohort participated at 26 years of age.
Main Outcome Measures
Educational achievement by 26 years of age.
The mean time spent watching television during childhood and adolescence was significantly associated with leaving school without qualifications and negatively associated with attaining a university degree. Risk ratios for each hour of television viewing per weeknight, adjusted for IQ and sex, were 1.43 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.24-1.65) and 0.75 (95% CI, 0.67-0.85), respectively (both, P<.001). The findings were similar in men and women and persisted after further adjustment for socioeconomic status and early childhood behavioral problems. Television viewing during childhood (ages 5-11 years) and adolescence (ages 13 and 15 years) had adverse associations with later educational achievement. However, adolescent viewing was a stronger predictor of leaving school without qualifications, whereas childhood viewing was a stronger predictor of nonattainment of a university degree.
Television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with poor educational achievement by 26 years of age. Excessive television viewing in childhood may have long-lasting adverse consequences for educational achievement and subsequent socioeconomic status and well-being.