HealthDay News — Physical activity and less screen time are associated with better mental health outcomes for children during the pandemic, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.
Pooja S Tandon, MD, MPH, from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey involving 500 children aged 6 to 10 years and 500 children and adolescents aged 11 to 17 years. The association of physical activity and screen time with mental health of US children was examined during the pandemic.
The researchers found that 195 children (20.9%) reported at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Children reported 4.4 hours of recreational screen time per day and a mean of 3.9 days/week with at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. There were significant associations seen for COVID-19 stressors with higher total difficulties in the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for younger and older groups. For younger children, engaging in physical activity 7 days/week was associated with fewer externalizing symptoms. Among older children, engaging in 1 to 6 and 7 days/week of physical activity was associated with lower total difficulties, fewer externalizing symptoms, and fewer internalizing symptoms. For younger and older children, there was an association observed for more screen time with higher total difficulties.
“Although much of the immediate health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic have focused on infection and its sequelae, this cross-sectional study highlights the critical need to also address the short- and long-term consequences of the pandemic on the mental health of children,” the authors write.