Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2022 Jul 26;19(1):92. doi: 10.1186/s12966-022-01327-8.
BACKGROUND: We examined the prospective associations of changes in lifestyle behaviors before/during the COVID-19 pandemic, namely physical activity and screen time, with mental health. Furthermore, the impacts of physical activity and screen time on mental health during the pandemic were examined cross-sectionally.
METHODS: A two-wave longitudinal study was conducted among 2423 children and adolescents in Shanghai, China. Lifestyle behavior variables (physical activity and screen time) and psychological variables (depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress) were measured using a self-reported questionnaire in January and March 2020. A series of multivariable logistic regressions were performed to examine the associations between changes in lifestyle behaviors in two waves and psychological problems. The combined associations of physical activity and screen time with psychological problems were also explored using the second wave data.
RESULTS: Compared to students with persistently short screen time before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, those with prolonged screen time (OR = 1·36 for depression, OR = 1·48 for anxiety) and those with persistently long screen time (OR = 1·70 for depression, OR = 2·13 for anxiety) reported a higher risk of psychological symptoms. The association between changes in physical activity and psychological symptoms was not statistically significant after adjustment for demographic factors, socioeconomic status, and screen time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging in longer screen time (OR = 1·44 for depression, OR = 1·55 for anxiety) was associated with worsened psychological conditions, while engaging in increased physical activity (OR = 0·58 for depression, OR = 0·66 for anxiety) was associated with better psychological conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests that promoting physical activity and limiting leisure screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic are important to prevent and mitigate psychological problems in children and adolescents. Therefore, effective interventions targeting lifestyle behaviors are needed to protect children and adolescents’ physical and mental health.