Getting active and switching off the television could be the answer to reducing depression in children and adolescents, according to new research.
The study, by the Murdoch Children’s Institute and Deakin University, involved over 8,000 children aged 10-16 years old and found children who participated in more physical activity and spent less time watching television were less likely to have depression.
Of the 8,000 students, 33% of children and teenagers in the study had moderate to high levels of depression. Children with increased opportunities to get involved in sport and other activities outside of class, children who were very active during physical education class, as well as children who played on more sports teams at both school and outside school were all less likely to experience depression.
Whilst the association between being active and depression in adults is established, there have been very few studies in children. Current guidelines recommend children should participate in moderate to vigorous activity for at least an hour a day, and should spend less than two hours a day watching television.
In line with previous studies, researchers found that high levels of leisure television watching were associated with depression, which was particularly true for younger participants in the study.
Lead researcher, Dr Joanne Williams, said the study highlights the importance of associations between physical activity, leisure-time television watching and depression.
"The results suggest that encouraging children and teenagers to be more active at school, the community and in other contexts, as well as reducing time watching television, may have beneficial impacts on their mental health and wellbeing."
Dr Williams also said there would be benefit in ensuring the recommended activity and television leisure time levels are more broadly known.
"Educating and advising children and teenagers, as well as their parents, on the recommended activity levels and leisure time television use could also increase compliance and could be a simple way to reduce depression."