Screen time is more strongly associated than physical activity with overweight and obesity in 9- to 16-year-old Australians


Dr Carol Maher, Health and Use of Time Group, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia.
Tel: +61 8 8302 6558 |
Fax: +61 8 8302 6558 |


Background:  Both reduced moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and increased screen time have been implicated in the aetiology of childhood overweight/obesity. This study aimed to determine which behaviour had the stronger association with overweight/obesity.

Method:  2200 randomly selected 9- to 16-year-old Australians provided four 24-h use-of-time recalls. Participants were classified into weight status categories and as high or low physical active, and high or low screen time according to Australian guidelines (≥60 min MVPA; ≤120 min recreational screen time daily). Multivariate logistic regression was used to calculate the odds ratios (OR) for overweight/obesity for each screen time and MVPA category.

Results:  Increased likelihood of overweight or obese was often associated with high screen time (ORs, 2.13–2.55 for boys and 1.47–1.72 for girls), but only sometimes and less strongly associated with low MVPA (ORs, 0.49–2.55 for boys and 1.06–1.47 for girls). Analyses conducted for combined screen time and MVPA categories showed screen time to be a stronger indicator of weight status than physical activity, especially in boys.

Conclusion:  Overweight and obesity were more strongly associated with screen time than physical activity. Screen time may be an important target for interventions aimed at reducing childhood overweight and obesity.