Sedentary behavior and indicators of mental health in school-aged children and adolescents: A systematic review

Prev Med. 2015 Jul:76:48-57. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.03.026. Epub 2015 Apr 18.


Objective: The presented systematic review aims at giving a comprehensive overview of studies assessing the relationship between sedentary behavior and indicators of mental health in school-aged children and adolescents.

Methods: Six online databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, CINAHL and SPORTDiscus) as well as personal libraries and reference lists of existing literature were searched for eligible studies.

Results: Ninety-one studies met all inclusion criteria. There was strong evidence that high levels of screen time were associated with more hyperactivity/inattention problems and internalizing problems as well as with less psychological well-being and perceived quality of life. Concerning depressive symptoms, self-esteem, eating disorder symptoms, and anxiety symptoms, no clear conclusion could be drawn. But, taking quality assessment into account, self-esteem was negatively associated with sedentary behavior, i.e. high levels of time engaging in screen-based sedentary behavior were linked to lower scores in self-esteem.

Conclusions: Overall, the association between sedentary behavior and mental health indicators was rather indeterminate. Future studies of high quality and with an objective measure of sedentary behavior will be necessary to further examine this association as well as to investigate longitudinal relationships and the direction of causality. Furthermore, more studies are needed to identify moderating and mediating variables.

Keywords: Adolescent; Child; Mental health; Sedentary lifestyle; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computers / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Psychology, Child
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Self Concept
  • Television / statistics & numerical data