This week I bought a new chair. That might not seem like a big deal, but the thing about my job is you spend about 25 – 30 hours sitting, in the same chair. No micro-pauses, no getting up and moving around. Just sitting.
I know from experience this isn’t great for my back. I also know from the literature it isn’t great for your heart, so I try to keep active. But recent studies also seem to suggest that being sedentary can increase your levels of anxiety.
Mark and I discussed this on his Sunday morning show on Radio Live, and how this might be related to the concerning rise of anxiety among college students in the USA. (Click here to listen to the interview)
We know that exercise is really effective for anxiety and depression. So the interesting thing about this study is that the effect of sedentary behaviour seemed to be independent of how much the exercise the person did…
“Researchers found that low-energy activities that involve sitting down, such as watching TV, using the computer, riding the bus and playing video games increased the risk of anxiety.
The longer participants spent sitting, the more anxious they felt, regardless of achieving sufficient physical activity throughout the day.” (Click here for the whole article)
It’s undeniably true that we spend longer sitting looking at screens and engaging with information in a vaguely distracted manner. But I couldn’t help but wonder if this effect was also a factor in recent studies from the USA, where anxiety has overtaken depression as the number one concern of college students.
Being a student is stressful and while we are more aware these days about the impact of depression, anxiety is also on the rise. This study reinforces that young people at college are increasingly anxious, which of course is different from being stressed.
Over 100,000 students records were used in this particular study and it showed…
“In the survey, clinicians identified that for clients who sought out counseling services, anxiety was the top-most concern of nearly 20 percent of all college clients. Nearly 16 percent of students complained of depression, while another 9 percent came to the counseling center for a relationship issue.” (Click here for the whole article)
So why is this? Students tend to come to university with high expectations, and lots of pressure to succeed in a world where opportunities can be hard to come by. Often young people rely more on their parents for longer, and have less experience of being independent than the generation before. On the flipside it’s also possible that this generation experiences less stigma when it comes to talking about anxiety and other mental health issues, and as a result aren’t backwards in coming forwards. This of course would be a good thing.
And of course being a student involves a LOT of sitting down.