Television Viewing is Top of Screen Time for European Children and Increases Risk of Higher BMI and Consumption of Sugary Drinks


Television viewing and other screen activities seem to have substantial effects on not only young children’s consumption of sugary drinks but also on increased BMI and obesity. This is the conclusion of a new study on 11,000 children in eight European countries published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


The study is part of the EU-funded research project IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of dietary and lifestyle-induced health effects in children and infants) investigating diet, lifestyle and social determinants of obesity in 2 to 9-year-olds . Parents responded to questions about their children’s TV and screen habits, and consumption of sweetened beverages. At the same time, the children’s height, weight, and waist were measured. The study was performed from 2007-2010 in Sweden, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, and Estonia.


The results show that children who watched TV for longer when the study started tended to have the following features when they were examined two years later: a higher Body Mass Index, a greater waist to height ratios and a larger consumption of sugary drinks. For each additional hour a child spent watching TV per day, there was a 26% increased chance of them falling into the group with the biggest increase in waist to height ratio, and a 22% greater chance of being in the group with the biggest increase in BMI. Similarly, each additional hour of daily TV watching created a 19% greater likelihood of increased consumption of sugary drinks. Television viewing seems to have stronger effect than other screen activities such as computer use or videogames. The findings also suggest that TV constitutes the majority of screen time for children, and so remains an important factor in obesity rates in Europe.  


The cohort of children built up during the IDEFICS study is being followed up in the FP7 EC funded I Family Study, which is investigating the determinants of food choice, lifestyle and health, not only in European children and adolescents but also their parents between 2012 and 2017.


The article Young children’s screen activities, sweet drink consumption and anthropometry: Results from a prospective European study has been published online by European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (20 November 2013). An abstract is now available to view here:      


ENDS/ Notes follow

Media contact for I. Family Study – Rhonda Smith/Emily Nash, Minerva (UK) +44(0)1264-326427/+44(0)7887-714957


Notes for Editors:

1.      Olafsdottir S, Berg C, Eiben G, Lanfer A, Reisch L, Ahrens W, Kourides Y, Molnár D, Moreno L A, Siani A, Veidebaum T, Lissner L, and on behalf of the IDEFICS consortium (2013) “Young children’s screen activities, sweet drink consumption and anthropometry: Results from a prospective European study”, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.234

2.      The IDEFICS Study ran from September 2006 to February 2012 was funded under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme. Researchers in 11 European countries collaborated on the research. The study delivered reliable data to make an international assessment of the problem of “obesity in children” possible. The focus of the IDEFICS Study lied in exploring the risks for overweight and obesity in children as well as associated long-term consequences. Beyond pure research, IDEFICS offered activities for health promotion and prevention in kindergartens and schools.

3.      The I Family Study is an EC funded project under Framework 7 of the KBBE programme running from March 2012 to February 2017. It has 17 partners, working across 11 countries and with cohorts in 8 European countries – Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Spain and Belgium.

4.      The I Family Study has two strategic objectives:

(1) Understand the interplay between barriers against and drivers towards healthy food choice; 

(2) Develop and disseminate strategies to induce changes that promote healthy dietary behaviour in European consumers especially adolescents and their parents.

5.     I Family study partners:


Participant organisation

Lead investigator(s)

Key responsibilities

University of Bremen, Germany

Wolfgang Ahrens

Project coordinator

BIPS – Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention Research GmbH, Germany

Iris Pigeot

German cohort, statistics

Institute of Food Sciences, National Research Council, Italy

Alfonso Siani

Italian cohort, nutritional epidemiology

Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Lucia Reisch,
Wencke Gwozdz

Consumer behaviour & environmental influences

University of Lancaster, United Kingdom

Garrath Williams

Ethics, policy, and stakeholder engagement

Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Staffan Mårild,
Lauren Lissner

Swedish cohort, family analysis

University of Helsinki, Finland

Jaakko Kaprio

Familial aggregation & genetic modelling

University of the Baleares Islands, Spain

Andreu Palou,
Catalina Picó

Genomic analysis

University of Pécs, Hungary

Dénes Molnár

Hungarian cohort

Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, The Netherlands

Roger Adan

Neuroimaging & neuropsychology

Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Cyprus

Michael Tornaritis

Cypriot cohort

National Institute for Health Development, Estonia

Toomas Veidebaum

Estonian cohort

Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Italy

Vittorio Krogh

Dietary assessment methods

University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Angie Page,
Ashley Cooper

Physical activity monitoring

Minerva PRC Ltd, United Kingdom

Rhonda Smith
Emily Nash 

Dissemination and communication

University of Zaragoza, Spain

Luis Moreno

Spanish cohort

Ghent University, Belgium

Stefaan De Henauw

Belgian cohort


IF-PR4 November 2013 

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