Depression tied to sustained sedentarism during pandemic, say researchers

November 11, 2021
Depression tied to sustained sedentarism during pandemic, say researchers

People who maintain a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to have symptoms of depression, compared to those who engaged in a more dynamic lifestyle. Researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) who surveyed a sample of over 3,000 participants from the US and the District of Columbia, said the sedentary changes caused by the dreadful COVID-19 pandemic would affect our behaviour and emotional state in “ways we couldn’t predict.”

Jacob Meyer, assistant professor of kinesiology and his colleagues at the Wellbeing and Exercise Laboratory at ISU examined how physical activity and sedentary behaviors impact mental health. Participants of the surveys conducted self-reported how much time they spent daily on certain activities including sitting, looking at screens, and exercising. They were also asked to detail how the time spent engaged with each activity and their general behaviour revolving around them changed after the onset of the pandemic.

[Standard clinical scales were included in the surveys through which the participants could indicate changes they observed in their mental wellbeing since the onset of the pandemic.]

According to the results, previously active participants were forced to decrease their levels of physical activity by 32% on average after lockdown measures came into effect. These participants reported feeling more depressed, anxious, and lonely following the change.

A follow-up study tracked how the participants’ behaviours and mental health changed over time – this study uncovered that people who continued to spend a large part of their time sitting maintained a higher level of depressive symptoms on average compared to everyone else.

“In the second study, we found that on average, people saw their mental health improve,” Meyer said. “People adjusted to life in the pandemic. But for people whose sitting times stayed high, their depressive symptoms, on average, didn’t recover in the same way as everyone else’s.”

The researchers underline that an “association” between sitting and depressive symptoms is not the same as a definitive cause: it is possible that people who were more depressed simply sat down for longer periods of time, or the people who sat more became depressed from other causes. Further research into the topic is warranted.

For now, the researchers recommend forming a habit of taking a short walk before and after your workday, if you are stuck at home. This will help alleviate the negative effects of sedetarism and help impart some structure to your day, both of which will be beneficial for your mental health.

Read: Risk of depression three times more likely in toxic workplaces


Category: Education, Features

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