Male College-Age Depression Linked To Later Sedentary Behavior
April 2, 2014

Male College-Age Depression Linked To Later Sedentary Behavior

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Is a male friend or relative you know spending too much time on the internet or watching TV? If so, he may have been depressed during his first few years out of high school.

A new study in the journal Preventive Medicine concluded that sedentary habits, which often stem from depression, are established in the early 20s and these habits can establish a pattern of sedentary behavior later in life.

The study included over 760 20-year-old adults, both men and women, living in Montreal who were identified as exhibiting the signs and symptoms of depression between 2007 and 2008. Participants were asked by the researchers to track how much of their leisure time was spent in front of a TV or a computer screen when they were 24. The study team noticed a significant difference between male and female participants.

“We started out with the idea that early depression might later turn everyone into couch potatoes, just sitting around glued to the TV or a computer screen,” said study author Dr. Nancy Low, a psychiatrist at McGill University. “But what we didn’t expect was to see such a clear difference between what men and women were doing.”

The scientists discovered that their male participants spent about four hours more in front of a screen each week than their female participants did. Additionally, the number of hours spent in front of a screen, either the computer or the TV, was more than 21 hours per week or over three hours each day. This is greater than twice the amount of screen-time suggested by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology for men of this age, the Montreal-based researchers noted.

The study team warned that sedentary behavior is on the rise among young people and early habits lead to later behavior. The team also noted that their participants weren’t asked about their use of mobile devices or the time they spent reading – suggesting that participants spent even more time being sedentary than the study figures suggest.

“This study signals that young men who have been depressed are more likely than young women to become trapped in a vicious cycle where depression later leads to more sedentary behavior which in turn may contribute to later health problems that also include depression.” Low said. “What we need to do is figure out how best to intervene early in the process. And one of the things we’re looking into now is how that online time, and things like mobile apps, can best be used to help young people deal with their depression and become more physically active.”

The study team said they plan to see how online time within this age group is being spent. They theorized that young women are using their computer for social interactions, activities that can help in coping with depression. Meanwhile, young men are spending screen time on non-social activities, such as game-playing, listening to music or reading various websites.