Background: Of all age groups, older adults spend the most time watching TV, which is one of the most common sedentary behaviours. Such sedentary activity in older adulthood is thought to risk deterioration of physical and mental functioning, health and wellbeing. Identifying the characteristics of older adults whose TV viewing increases over time may help to target sedentary behaviour reduction interventions to those in most urgent need. Yet, studies of the factors associated with TV viewing have predominantly been cross-sectional. This study used a prospective design to describe changes in TV viewing over a two-year follow-up period, and to model socio-demographic, behavioural and health factors associated with observed changes in viewing time.
Methods: A two-year follow-up of 6,090 male and female older adults (mean age 64.9 ± 8.9 years) was conducted in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a cohort of community dwelling older adults. TV viewing time was self-reported at baseline and at follow-up. The sample was categorised according to baseline TV viewing duration (<2 hrs/d, 2 < 4 hrs/d, 4 < 6 hrs/d, ≥6 hrs/d), and the observed direction and extent of changes in viewing duration were described for each category. Socio-demographic, behavioural and health variables (socioeconomic status, depressive symptoms, disability, chronic illness, body mass index, physical activity, smoking), as measured at baseline, were entered into regression models as predictors of changes in TV viewing time between baseline and follow-up.
Results: Mean self-reported TV viewing time increased from 5.32 ± 4.08 hrs/d at baseline to 5.53 ± 4.19 hrs/d at follow-up (p < 0.001). Forty-nine per cent of participants increased their TV viewing (23% of all participants by 60 minutes or more), 41% decreased their viewing, and 10% reported no change in viewing duration. Increases in TV viewing at follow-up were associated with lower socioeconomic status, presence of depressive symptoms, higher BMI, physical inactivity, and being a smoker at baseline.
Conclusions: Findings call for the development of effective behaviour change interventions to counter increases in inactive TV viewing among older adults, and point to subgroups who may need to be prioritised for such interventions.