Effect of Physical Activity and Television Viewing on Depressive Symptoms

In Brazil, researchers found that patients who spent less time watching television as a leisure activity had less incidence of depression than patients who watched more television.

Higher television viewing was associated with depressive symptoms, while meeting physical activity recommendations mitigated this association, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Researchers used data from the Brazilian National Health Survey to assess the association between television viewing and leisure physical activity on depressive symptoms in adults. Data was collected on demographics, lifestyle factors, depressive symptoms, hours of television viewing per day, and minutes of physical activity per week. The outcome of the study was a positive depression screen as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Time spent watching television and performing physical activity were determined by self-reporting with a 5-hour cutoff and 150-minute cutoff, respectively. Binary logistic regression models were used to determine associations between physical activity and depression.

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Of the 59,401 participants, 34,282 were women, and the average age was 43.3 years old. Participants who watched more than 5 hours of television (n=5219) were older, consumed more alcohol, smoked tobacco, ate more goodies, were obese, had higher levels of depressive symptoms, completed lower levels of education, and were less physically active than participants who watched less television (n=54,182). Binary logistic regression indicated physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week reduced the effect television viewing had on depressive symptoms in both sexes.

Among those who watched more television, active men had an odds ratio (OR) of 1.16 for elevated depressive symptoms, while inactive men had an OR of 3.63 for elevated depressive symptoms; active women had an OR of 1.30 for elevated depressive symptoms, while inactive women had an OR of 1.84 for elevated depressive symptoms.

Limitations of this study include not controlling for potential confounding variables, a cross-sectional design which limits directionality interpretation, and potential answer biases since all variables were self-reported.

Researchers concluded “that higher [television]-viewing was associated with elevated depressive symptoms, while higher leisure physical activity attenuated the association of high [television]-viewing on depressive symptoms in both sexes.”

Werneck AO, Stubbs B, Fernandes RA, Szwarcwald CL, Silva DR. Leisure time physical activity reduces the association between TV-viewing and depressive symptoms: A large study among 59,401 Brazilian adults [published online March 22, 2019]. J Affect Disorder. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.03.066