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Sedentary Children Have Greater Psychological Distress

Last Updated: April 28, 2009.

Children who are sedentary and watch a lot of television and movies have higher levels of psychological distress, according to research published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

TUESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are sedentary and watch a lot of television and movies have higher levels of psychological distress, according to research published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

Mark Hamer, Ph.D., and colleagues from University College London in the United Kingdom, surveyed 1,486 children aged 4 to 12 years regarding psychological distress, television and screen entertainment time, and physical activity levels.

The researchers found that 4.2 percent of children had scores indicating psychological distress and 25 percent watched television and screen entertainment at least three hours a day. After adjusting for possible confounding factors, television and screen entertainment time and physical activity levels were independently associated with psychological distress. Psychological distress increased by 24 percent in children who watched more than 2.7 hours of television and screen entertainment a day, and by 46 percent when combined with low physical activity.

"Higher levels of television and screen entertainment time and low physical activity levels interact to increase psychological distress in young children," Hamer and colleagues conclude. "Because physical activity levels in adolescence also predict mental health in adulthood, public health policy should focus on reducing sedentary time and maintaining sufficient physical activity levels in younger children."

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