Study finds that increased TV viewing time in adolescence is associated with greater rates of depression during young adulthood


A recent study published in the journal Preventive Medicine has reported on the concerning association between screen time and symptoms of depression in young adults. The Danish study followed a group of adolescents for up to 12 years, gathering information on their television viewing habits, in addition to other forms of screen time, such as time spent on the computer.

The study found an increase in depression scores among young adults who had reported increased TV viewing time during their adolescence. The more hours spent each day during adolescence watching TV, the greater the depression scores in young adulthood. The same associations were not found between computer screen time during adolescence and symptoms of depression as a young adult. The study reported increased odds of mild, moderate, and severe depression in young adults who spent more hours watching TV as adolescents.

The researchers provide three possible explanations for the increase in prevalence of depression in young adults who spent greater amounts of time during their youth watching TV.

  • A reduction in communication and social interaction between family and friends due to the increased number of hours spent watching TV, potentially leading to social isolation, and subsequent depression.
  • The increased hours of TV time could result in attention problems and antisocial behaviour, or, due to the content viewed, body dissatisfaction, leading to subsequent depression.
  • Due to the increased hours spent watching TV, a reduction in time spent on physical activity or study. This could result in academic difficulties that have the potential to lead to depression.

Overall the researchers support limiting screen time in adolescence, specifically TV viewing time, in an effort to reduce the chance of depression later in young adulthood.




Grøntved, A, Singhammer, J, Froberg, K, Møller, NC, Pan, A, Pfeiffer, KA, Kristensen, PL. “A prospective study of screen time in adolescence and depression symptoms in young adulthood” Preventive Medicine, Volume 81, December 2015, Pages 108–113









Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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