HealthDay News — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused large disruptions to physical activity, sleep, time use, and mental health among young adults, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Osea Giuntella, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues linked biometric and survey data from several cohorts of college students before and during the COVID-19 pandemic (682 students) to assess changes in lifestyle and mental health.

The researchers found that at the onset of the pandemic, average steps declined from 10,000 to 4600 steps per day, sleep increased 25 to 30 minutes per night, time spent socializing declined by more than half to less than 30 minutes, and screen time more than doubled to more than 5 hours per day. From March to July 2020, the proportion of participants at risk for clinical depression ranged from 46% to 61%, an increase of 90% in depression rates vs the same population just prior to the pandemic.

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“Before the pandemic, there was not a very strong connection between changes in physical activity and mental health, but our analyses suggest that disruption to physical activity is a leading risk factor for depression during this period,” the study authors said in a statement.

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