Objectively measured sedentary behaviour and self-esteem among children


Background: Existing research suggests consistent negative mental health associations (e.g., self-esteem) with sedentary behaviour (primarily screen viewing) among children. Sedentary behaviour has typically been measured using self-report or by objective measures of time spent sedentary.  Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the association between self-esteem and patterns of objectively measured sedentary behaviour in terms of frequency of sedentary bouts and frequency of breaks in sedentary time.  Methods: Participants were 787 boys and girls [mean age (standard deviation) = 11 years (0.6)] from 16 secondary schools in Toronto, Canada. Height, weight, physical activity and sedentary behaviour (accelerometers), global self-esteem and physical self-worth were assessed.  Results: After adjusting for sex, age, weight status, parental socioeconomic status, physical activity, and accelerometer daily wear time, global self-esteem and physical self-worth were not associated with any of the sedentary behaviour outcomes. There was a significant positive association between physical self-worth and minutes spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA; b = 1.514, p = 0.002). The association between global self-esteem and MVPA was not statistically significant. Conclusions: What children are actually doing when sedentary is likely more important in terms of associations with mental health outcomes like self-esteem. The development of objective measures of specific sedentary behaviours and the context that they occur in is likely needed to advance understanding of the relationship between sedentary behaviour and mental health.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded by the Built Environment, Obesity and Health Strategic Initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).