Health And Lifestyle For The Over 50s

Could Sedentary Behaviour Increase Your Risk of Anxiety?


Over the years, the presence of televisions and computers in our homes has made an increasing number of people prone to sedentary behaviour. Long periods of sitting on the sofa can have a clear impact on the health of our bodies, but a new study suggests that it may also affect our mental health.

Exploring Changes in Modern Society
Researchers analysed nine studies which explored links between sedentary behaviour and anxiety symptoms – most with only adult participants, but two including children /adolescents. Some studies just looked at television watching and computer use, while some took into account other periods of sitting, such as work-related sitting and time spent sitting on transport.

“Anecdotally, we are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behaviour,” says Megan Teychenne, lead researcher and lecturer at Deakin University Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) in Australia. “Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were in fact linked. Also, since research has shown positive associations between sedentary behaviour and depressive symptoms, this was another foundation for further investigating the link between sedentary behaviour and anxiety symptoms.”

Links Found Between Sedentary Behaviour and Anxiety
In five of the nine studies, a higher amount of sedentary behaviour was associated with an increased risk of anxiety. Four of these studies showed that total sitting time was linked to anxiety levels, while the fifth study provided less strong evidence that a lot of TV and computer use could increase risk of anxiety.

While anxiety is a normal reaction to certain stressful situations, sufferers of anxiety feel this way a disproportionate amount of the time, worrying excessively and sometimes having debilitating anxiety attacks. It can also cause physical symptoms, such as a pounding heartbeat, tense muscles, difficulty breathing and headaches.

It is thought that sedentary behaviour may contribute to risk of anxiety because of other side effects of such habits, which may include disturbances in sleep and social withdrawal. However, the link needs to be explored further to establish cause and effect.

“It is important that we understand the behavioural factors that may be linked to anxiety, in order to be able to develop evidence-based strategies in preventing/managing this illness,” says Miss Teychenne. “Our research showed that evidence is available to suggest a positive association between sitting time and anxiety symptoms. However, the direction of this relationship still needs to be determined through longitudinal and interventional studies.”