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Longer Time Spent Sitting During the COVID-19 Pandemic Linked With Depressive Symptoms

High sitting time during the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with depression, according to the results of a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

This longitudinal study analyzed data from the COVID-19 and the Wellbeing Study conducted by Iowa State University. Between April and May of 2020, 2327 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia were surveyed about behaviors and mental health prior to and during the first 8 weeks of the pandemic.

The participants were 63.8% women, 41.5% had a college degree, 61.9% earned ≥$75,000, 9.5% were in quarantine, 51.5% stayed at home, 76.9% practiced social distancing, daily screen time was 441.9±218.3 minutes, and sitting time was 511.2±202.5 minutes.

At baseline, there was no difference in predicted depressive symptoms on the basis of sitting time, however, by week 8 there was a pronounced difference, in which participants who sat for longer periods of time had higher predicted depressive symptoms.

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The opposite trend was observed for screen time, in which at baseline there was an effect of increased screen time on predicted depressive symptoms, but by week 3, this relationship was no longer observed.

Predicted depressive and anxiety symptoms at baseline decreased with age but remained consistent over time. The decrease in symptoms of anxiety was largest among the youngest participants (70.7%) compared with the oldest participants (48.0%). At all timepoints, women had higher predicted depressive and anxiety symptoms. Compared with baseline, depressive symptoms decreased more greatly among men (52.1%) than among women (42.3%).

These findings may not be generalizable, as these participants were highly educated with high incomes.

These findings indicated that during the beginning of the COVID-19-related life changes, there was a general trend for improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression among adults living in the United States. Women and those who sat for longer periods of time may be at an increased risk for COVID-19-related depressive symptoms.


Meyer JD, O’Connor J, McDowell CP, Lansing JE, Brower CS, Herring MP. High sitting time is a behavioral risk factor for blunted improvement in depression across 8 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in April–May 2020.Front Psychiatry. Published online October 1, 2021. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2021.741433

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Source: Psychiatry Advisor