Overweight and unhappy: Children stuck in front of a screen

Spending too much time in front of television, DVDs and computer games is taking its toll on children’s physical and mental health, according to a government commissioned report published today.

Public Health England says there is evidence that children who spend more time watching screens tend to have higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.

The agency, which is using the data as the basis of a campaign to encourage families to adopt healthier behaviour, claims that 70% of young people did not undertake the recommended daily hour of physical activity.

The research echoes concerns raised by doctors last week that children’s lack of exercise was leading to more unhealthy lifestyles. A third of 11 year olds are now either overweight or obese.

The proportion of young people with a low estimation of their own wellbeing almost doubles from 14% to 24% between 11 and 15, according to the independent NatCen Social Research organisation, which presented new analysis of a broad set of data for the Department of Health.

Young people who spent less than one hour a day playing computer games were almost three times more likely to say they enjoyed good wellbeing as those who played four hours or more, according to the research.

Similarly those who shared an evening meal with their family on at least six days a week were more likely to be happy about their circumstances.

Government health leaders are using such evidence, only the latest in a growing library, to bolster their message that more physical activity will make children more likely to concentrate in school, enjoy better relationships with classmates and be less worried, anxious or depressed.

The latest report uses data from the Millenium Cohort study of children born in 2000 by the Institute of Education in London, and the UK Household Longitudinal Study, led by Essex University. It was commissioned by the Department of Health.

 

Written by James Meikle – The Guardian.

For further research linking children’s psychological problems to screen time follow this link: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/aug/28/children-health-tv-computer-games