Great Canadian Article—Would You Be Willing to Give Up TV for More Years of Life? Study by Life and Disability Insurance Companies.
Dec 28, 2009
Jamie Fleischner

Jamie Fleischner

28 Dec, 2009

Here is a great article written by a Canadian author, Jonathan Chevreau. Ask yourself what you would be willing to give up knowing you could live longer? Would you be willing to give up some income in premium knowing your family is protected? Could you give up watching TV if it meant living longer?

Posted: December 10, 2009, 11:35 AM by Jonathan_Chevreau

We’re currently in the sweet spot for financial industry surveys but yesterday’s RBC Insurance poll on what Canadians would give up to add five years to their lives was among the stranger ones. The poll released by Canada News Wire headlined the fact that nearly six in ten Canadians “would be willing to give up beer, alcohol and wine” if doing so ensured they would live five years longer.

It’s not clear whether those five extra years will be spent watching television: a majority (55%) said they would not be willing to give up watching TV even if those five bonus years were healthy ones. Apparently, TV is a more compelling vice than eating red meat: only 45% were unwilling to give up steaks, burgers and the like; and 34% were unwilling to give up booze. 

While 76% of the 1,032 adults surveyed by Ipsos Reid early in November say they try to maintain healthy eating patterns most of the time, men were less likely to give up red meat than women: 50% of men wouldn’t give it up for five extra years versus just 40% of women. Same with alcohol: 39% of men were less willing to give it booze, versus 28% of women.

Majority feel too much stress in their lives

But the same poll found 55% feel there is too much stress in their lives, especially parents: 69% of parents felt stress compared to only 51% for the childless. Based on the other survey findings, it appears that activities like being a beer-swilling carnivore parked in front of the TV is how most of us deal with stress. And to the extent stress is harmful to health, perhaps we need to “indulge” in periodic escapism.

Keep in mind that the question posed was strictly hypothetical: IF you could be assured of five extra years, WOULD you give up such-and-such activity? We’ve all seen studies about how drinking a glass of red wine a day may actually increase longevity. There is evidence that eating less in general, whether meat or carbohydrates, can lead to increased longevity, as this article suggests.

As for television,  I’ve never seen any study that makes a link between TV watching and early death. Visit any retirement home and you’ll see quite a few seniors happily watching TV. To the extent good programming fends off boredom, you could argue the case for TV. I suppose the argument against TV is that it robs us of time that could be spent on exercise but the two are hardly mutually exclusive. In fact, I know a few people who make it a point to watch TV while they’re on an exercise bike.

The insurance pitch

Of course, it should come as no surprise that there is an insurance agenda behind this survey. Click on the CNW link above to get the pitch for life insurance and disability insurance. Because, wouldn’t you know it, 76% of Canadians with children worry about what would happen if the family’s income dropped because of death or illness, but only 68% feel they have enough life insurance for their family’s needs.

If you’re among them, fear not. Instead of watching TV tonight, order take-in food from a vegetarian restaurant and browse the web for RBC Insurance’s “free online customized life insurance guide” available here.

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