Owning modern devices is associated with obesity

Harold Mandel's picture
A young child watching TV

The obesity epidemic worldwide is for real. There appears to be a clear association between obesity and sedentary lifestyles coupled with poor dietary patterns which have become commonplace in our modern world. An awareness of the variables which are actually associated with the obesity epidemic, and associated rise in cases of diabetes, should lead to better considerations of how to better deal with this serious problem.

Researchers have found there is an association between ownership of common modern household devices and obesity and diabetes in high, middle and low income countries, reported the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Feb. 10, 2014. Ownership of modern household devices, including televisions, cars, and computers, is common in high income countries. The use of these devices has been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The researchers hypothesized that ownership of these devices is associated with obesity and diabetes and that these effects can be explained as being due to:

1: Decreased physical activity

2: Increased sitting time

3: Increased energy intake

In their analysis the researchers used data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study which involved 153, 996 adults from high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low income countries. They observed that ownership of a household device increased from low to high income countries from 4 percent to 83 percent for all 3 devices. The increased ownership of these devices was found to be associated with the following:

1: Decreased physical activity

2: Increased sitting

3: Dietary energy intake


4: Body mass index

5: Waist circumference

The researchers observed there was an increased chance of obesity and diabetes with the ownership of just any 1 household device in comparison to no device ownership. The odds were increased further with ownership of a second device, but ownership of a third device did not increase the odds any further. TV ownership had the strongest association with obesity and diabetes. When considering country income level, the odds of obesity and diabetes when owning all 3 devices was found to be greatest in low income countries.

The researchers concluded that ownership of household devices increased the chances of obesity and diabetes. This association was in part mediated by effects on physical activity, sitting time and dietary energy intake. Therefore, as we witness increasing ownership of household devices in developing countries, societal interventions are necessary to lessen their effects on poor health.

It is felt that the spread of obesity and type-2 diabetes may become epidemic in low-income countries, as more people become able to own higher priced items such as TVs, computers and cars, reports Simon Fraser University in a review of this research. Scott Lear, a health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University, led the new research dealing with this association.

Lear headed and his international research team questioned participants from 17 countries, ranging from high and middle income to low-income nations about ownership as well as physical activity and diet. They found a 400 percent increase in obesity and a 250 per cent increase in diabetes among owners of these devices in low-income countries. The researchers also found compelling associations between owning all three devices, in comparison with those who owned no devices including:

1: 31 per cent decrease in physical activity

2: 21 per cent increase in sitting

3: A 9 cm increase in waist size

There was no association found comparatively in high-income countries, which has suggested that the effects of owning items associated with sedentary lifestyles has already occurred, which is reflected in current high rates of these conditions. Lear said, “With increasing uptake of modern-day conveniences–TVs, cars, computers–low- and middle-income countries could see the same obesity and diabetes rates as in high-income countries that are the result of too much sitting, less physical activity and increased consumption of calories.” Lear has predicted that these results can lead to “potentially devastating societal health care consequences” in these countries. It is anticipated rates of obesity and diabetes will rise as low- and middle-income countries develop and become more industrialized.

There appears to be an apparent association between less physical activity and ownership of modern devices, such as televisions, cars, and computers, as this research suggests. It has become apparent that this problem crosses lines between wealthy and poor countries.It also appears that people who adhere to sedentary lifestyles often eat a lot of junk food. The association between sedentary lifestyles and obesity and diabetes is clear. Therefore, there must be more aggressive initiatives worldwide to get more people to exercise more often and eat more nutritious foods, regardless of whether or not they own these modern devices.