(NaturalNews) Watching violence on TV and in other forms of audiovisual media is strongly correlated with aggression and therefore poses a serious public health threat, according to a new meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers L. Rowell Huesmann and Brad Bushman reviewed more than 50 years of studies on media violence and aggression. They found that the connection between the two was stronger than any other public health correlation except the one between smoking and lung cancer.
"Exposure to violent electronic media has a larger effect than all but one other well-known threat to public health," Huesmann said. "The only effect slightly larger than the effect of media violence on aggression is that of cigarette smoking on lung cancer."
The correlation between violent TV, films and video games and aggression was stronger than the correlation between condom use and HIV prevention, or the correlation between calcium intake and bone density.
According to Huesmann, male and female children who watch violent TV programs and identify with the characters have a higher average aggression level as adults than children who do not.
Children now spend approximately three hours per day watching TV, with 60 percent of all TV programming containing violence. Forty percent of TV shows portray violence that is considered "extreme."
In one of the studies reviewed, researchers found that boys who watched more violent television were more likely as adults to push, grab or shove their spouses; to respond violently to insults; to commit moving traffic violations; or to be convicted of crimes.
Violent video games are also strongly correlated with aggression, the researchers found. Approximately 83 percent of children in the United States live in homes with video game units.
"The research clearly shows that exposure to virtual violence increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively," Huesmann said.