Sitting too much may kill you even if you exercise regularly, according to an American Cancer Society study.
If you sit for six hours a day or more, your risk of dying early jumps 19 percent, compared with people who sit fewer than three hours, the study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggests.
The study authors added, sitting may kill you in 14 ways, including: cancer; heart disease; stroke; diabetes; kidney disease; suicide; Parkinson’s disease; Alzheimer’s disease; nervous disorders; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; lung disease; liver disease; peptic ulcer and other digestive disease; and musculoskeletal disorders.
“The simple message is that we should be moving more,” said lead researcher Alpa Patel, strategic director of the cancer society’s prevention study-3.
“The less sitting you do, the better it is for you,” she said, “Breaking up an hour of sitting with 2 minutes of standing or light activity can improve cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.”
The study however couldn’t prove cause and effect, but it’s clear that Americans are spending more time in their seats — watching TV, working and playing on computers and smartphones. With age people sit more, and people with chronic disease spend even more sedentary time, the researchers noted.
An Australian study estimated that 90 percent of non-working time was sedentary, and that more than half of it was spent watching TV or sitting at computers.
For the study, Patel’s team collected data on nearly 128,000 men and women who were part of an American Cancer Society prevention study. At the start of the study, all were free of major chronic diseases. During 21 years of follow-up, nearly 49,000 people died.
It’s not clear why prolonged sitting is unhealthy, Patel said. It’s possible that people who spend a lot of time on the couch also have other unhealthy behaviors, such as excess snacking, she suggested.
In addition, prolonged sitting has been linked to higher levels of triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure and insulin. Sitting has also been tied to inflammation caused by obesity.
These consequences might explain why sitting was linked with death from heart, liver and kidney disease, as well as cancer, diabetes and COPD, Patel said.
It’s less clear why death from suicide, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as nervous and musculoskeletal disorders, seems associated with sitting. For these, she said, it’s possible that the conditions themselves result in more sedentary time.
The increased mortality risk differed by disease, ranging from 10 percent for cancer to 60 percent for musculoskeletal disease, Patel said.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn, said, “We have known for some time now that sitting for extended periods daily is injurious to health.”
He noted that this study links excessive sitting to an increased risk of dying early from an array of causes — everything from heart disease to suicide.
“Does this mean that sitting excessively increases suicide risk? That seems implausible,” Katz said. “Perhaps depressed people lack the motivation to get up and go out. But then again, we know that routine activity is important to mental health, so some contribution of sedentariness to the severity of depression is not out of the question.”
Even though more study is needed to figure out why sitting appears to boost the risk of early death, what to do about it is no mystery, he said.
With Agency Inputs
Suicide can’t be predicted by asking about suicidal thoughts : Study
Most people who died of suicide deny they experience suicidal thoughts when asked by doctors in the weeks and months leading up to their death, a major Australian study has found.
The findings, co-authored by clinical psychiatrist and Professor Matthew Large from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, Sydney that published in the journal BJPsych Open The meta-analysis challenge the widely-held assumption that psychiatrists can predict who will suicide by asking if they are preoccupied with thoughts of killing themselves.
The study showed that 80% of patients who were not undergoing psychiatric treatment and who died of suicide reported not to have suicidal thoughts when asked by their psychiatrist or GP.
“If you meet someone who has suicidal ideation there is a 98 per cent chance that they are not going to suicide,” said Professor Large, an international expert on suicide risk assessment who also works in the emergency department of a major Sydney hospital.
“But what we didn’t know was how frequently people who go on to suicide have denied having suicidal thoughts when asked directly,” he added.
“This study proves we can no longer ration psychiatric care based on the presence of suicidal thoughts alone. We need to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for everyone experiencing mental illness, whether or not they reveal they are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Professor Large said.
About one in 10 people will have suicidal ideation in their lifetime. But the study showed suicidal ideation alone was not rational grounds for deciding who gets treatment and who does not, Professor Large said.
“We know that suicide feeling is pretty common and that suicide is actually a rare event, even among people with severe mental illness,” Professor Large added.
Suicidal ideation tells us an awful lot about how a person is feeling, their psychological distress, sometimes their diagnosis and their need for treatment but it’s not a meaningful test of future behaviour.
Suicidal feelings can fluctuate rapidly and people may suicide very impulsively after only a short period of suicidal thoughts.
But, people had good reasons not to disclose thoughts of suicide, fearing stigma, triggering over-reactions or upsetting family and friends, and being involuntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment, Professor Large said.
Professor Large emphasized that clinicians should not assume that patients experiencing mental distress without reporting suicidal ideas were not at elevated risk of suicide.