Screen time is associated with depressive symptomatology among obese adolescents a HEARTY study (2016)

Eur J Pediatr. 2016 Apr 13.

Goldfield GS1,2,3,4,5, Murray M6, Maras D7, Wilson AL6, Phillips P8, Kenny GP9, Hadjiyannakis S10,11, Alberga A9, Cameron JD10, Tulluch H12, Sigal RJ13.


Obese adolescents spend a disproportionate time in screen-based activities and are at higher risk for clinical depression compared to their normal-weight peers. While screen time is associated with obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors, little is known about the relationship between screen time and mental health. This cross-sectional study examines the association between duration and types of screen time and depressive symptomatology (subclinical symptoms) in a sample of 358 (261 female; 97 male) overweight and obese adolescents aged 14-18 years. Self-report measures assessed depressive symptoms and time spent in different types of screen behavior (TV, recreational computer use, and video games). After controlling for age, ethnicity, sex, parental education, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, caloric intake, carbohydrate intake, and intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, total screen time was significantly associated with more severe depressive symptomatology (β = 0.21, p = 0.001). After adjustment, time spent playing video games (β = 0.13, p = 0.05) and recreational computer time (β = 0.18, p = 0.006) was associated with depressive symptoms, but TV viewing was not.


Screen time may represent a risk factor or marker of depressive symptomatology in obese adolescents. Future intervention research should evaluate whether reducing screen exposure reduces depressive symptoms in obese youth, a population at increased risk for psychological disorders.

What is Known:

  • Screen time is associated with an increased risk of obesity in youth.
  • Screen time is associated with an adverse cardio-metabolic profile in youth.

What is New:

  • Screen time is associated with more severe depressive symptoms in overweight and obese adolescents.
  • Time spent in recreational computer use and playing video games, but not TV viewing, was associated with more severe depressive symptoms in overweight and obese adolescents.