Associations of sedentary behavior in leisure and occupational contexts with symptoms of depression and anxiety

Prev Med. 2020 Feb 8:133:106021. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106021. Online ahead of print.


Sedentary behaviors (SB) can be associated with poorer mental health, but it remains unclear whether contexts for these behaviors may be important. We assessed relationships of SB in leisure-time and occupational contexts with frequent symptoms of depression and anxiety. Data originate from the Swedish Health Profile Assessment (HPA) database, a health assessment offered to employees working for companies or organizations connected to healthcare services. Analyses are based on data from 2017 onwards (N = 23,644; 57% male, mean age = 42 years). Two self-report questions assessed proportions of time spent in SB in leisure contexts and in the occupational setting. Logistic regressions examined relationships of SB in each context with the self-reporting of frequent symptoms of depression/anxiety. A separate model for the leisure plus occupational SB was also generated. Fully-adjusted models included exercise frequency. Compared to those reporting that they were 'almost never' sedentary in leisure-time contexts, a detrimental dose-response with frequent depression/anxiety symptoms was observed with increasing proportions of sedentary time: 50% of the time (OR = 1.44; 1.23-1.70), 75% (OR = 2.95; 2.45-3.54), almost always (OR = 3.85; 2.84-5.22). For occupational SB, the only associations were among those who reported being sedentary almost always, compared to almost never (OR = 1.47; 1.25-1.73). Associations of 'overall' SB with depression/anxiety symptoms mirrored the dose-response relationship for leisure-time SB. Exercise frequency attenuated the association for leisure-time SB only, but it remained statistically significant. Adults who spend ≥50% of their leisure-time in sedentary pursuits experience more frequent symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared to those who are less sedentary in that context.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Leisure-time; Physical activity; Sedentary behavior.