Associations of sitting behaviours with all-cause mortality over a 16-year follow-up: the Whitehall II study

Int J Epidemiol. 2015 Dec;44(6):1909-16. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv191. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Background: Sitting behaviours have been linked with increased risk of all-cause mortality independent of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Previous studies have tended to examine single indicators of sitting or all sitting behaviours combined. This study aims to enhance the evidence base by examining the type-specific prospective associations of four different sitting behaviours as well as total sitting with the risk of all-cause mortality.

Methods: Participants (3720 men and 1412 women) from the Whitehall II cohort study who were free from cardiovascular disease provided information on weekly sitting time (at work, during leisure time, while watching TV, during leisure time excluding TV, and at work and during leisure time combined) and covariates in 1997-99. Cox proportional hazards models were used to investigate prospective associations between sitting time (h/week) and mortality risk. Follow-up was from date of measurement until (the earliest of) death, date of censor or July 31 2014.

Results: Over 81 373 person-years of follow-up (mean follow-up time 15.7 ± 2.2 years) a total of 450 deaths were recorded. No associations were observed between any of the five sitting indicators and mortality risk, either in unadjusted models or models adjusted for covariates including MVPA.

Conclusions: Sitting time was not associated with all-cause mortality risk. The results of this study suggest that policy makers and clinicians should be cautious about placing emphasis on sitting behaviour as a risk factor for mortality that is distinct from the effect of physical activity.

Keywords: Sitting; mortality; sedentary behaviour; television.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • London
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Posture*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Time Factors