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Prev Med. 2012 Feb;54(2):168-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.11.007. Epub 2011 Dec 3.

Association between childhood and adolescent television viewing and unemployment in adulthood.

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Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Applied Humanities, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.



To assess the long-term association between childhood television viewing and adult unemployment, and if this association is mediated by educational achievement.


Study members were a general-population birth cohort of 1037 participants born in New Zealand in 1972/1973. Hours of weekday television viewing were reported at ages 5-15. Since age 18, unemployment was assessed retrospectively using life-history calendars to age 32. Information on educational qualifications was collected at age 32.


Childhood and adolescent television viewing predicted adult unemployment. This association was significant for male Study members only (β=0.20, p<0.0001). The association for male Study members remained after further controlling for socioeconomic status, cognitive ability, and early indications of behaviour problems (p<0.0007). The association was only partially mediated by educational achievement and television viewing remained a predictor of unemployment after adjusting for this (p=0.0035). By logistic regression, each additional hour of daily television viewing was associated with an increased likelihood of spending at least 6 months in unemployment between ages 18 and 32 years (OR=1.36, 95%, CI=1.06, 1.76, p=0.0157).


Childhood and adolescent television viewing may have long-lasting consequences for adult unemployment for boys. This association is only partially explained by the association between television viewing and educational achievement.

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