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Screen time and lack of physical activity is making teenagers depressed

Posted April 4, 2017

Youth is not as it used to be in our days. Although usually these words come out of an old grumpy man, it is actually true in many ways. Young people these days are spending their free time differently, have different opportunities, but also face different health challenges. A new study revealed why so many teenagers now are suffering from depression.

Thumb generation – teenagers are experiencing depressive symptoms because of lack of physical activity and excessive screen time. Image credit: Tomwsulcer |

As an aforementioned grumpy old man would have guessed by now, technology is the one to blame for the poor mental health of teenagers. This new study revealed that low levels of physical activity combined with high recreational screen time can be linked to a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms.  This news are worrying not only because younger generation is spending more and more time in front of a screen, but also because the amount of exercise needed to alleviate this risk is minute. Teenagers who exercised at least for one hour a day were half as likely to develop depressive symptoms.

This problem is specifically bad in the developing world, where technological revolution is fairly new. Improving economic situation and technology becoming more and more affordable means that more teenagers are exposed to smart devices early. And so they quickly shift from spending their free time outside to staying in front of a screen. Furthermore, rapid urbanization reduces opportunities to exercise outside for longer as playgrounds are disappearing from the cities. Now more and more teenagers in developing countries are expressing depressive symptoms. However, this problem is not isolated to the developing world only.

Scientists say that teenagers in the developed world are also affected negatively by the same behaviour. Dr Asad Khan, author of the study, said: “Technology is now a common part of teen lives, so it is important to balance screen time with an active lifestyle in order to minimise the risk of depressive symptoms and optimise wellbeing”. It is a global problem, but, as usual, it will have to be addressed locally. Policy makers should develop programs promoting exercise and outdoor activities, which could potentially reduce screen time that teenagers are getting.

One cannot escape the technology – it is everywhere already. However, teenagers should find a way to balance it against some healthy physical activity.

Source: The University of Queensland

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