More computer=less sleep=worse health? A study of 15 year olds in 3 countries



Parents often complain that their children spend too much time in front of their computer and are worried about what effect this might have to their children’s’ health. After recent reports in the news that children who spend more time in front of a screen are more likely to experience emotional distress, anxiety and depression, the need to study the effects of computer use in childrens’ health becomes more and more evident.

In IJPH we are very much interest in this subject (see our current call for papers here) and we recently published a study**, aiming to investigate whether computer use is associated with health symptoms through sleep duration among 15 year old in Finland, France and Denmark.

This study uses data from the WHO cross-sectional Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study (HBSC). Data from 5,402 15 year olds are used from the 2010 study from Finland, France and Denmark. Symptoms assessed were feeling low, irritability/bad temper, nervousness, headache, stomach ache, backache and feeling dizzy. The authors wanted to see if there was a mediating effect of sleep between computer use and symptoms.

The authors report that on average adolescents slept about 8 hours per night, while the spend approximately 2 hours per day using their computers. Computer use was associated with shorter sleep duration and higher psychological and somatic symptom load. Sleep duration partly and modestly mediated the association between computer use and symptom load.

What do you think can be done to protect children’s health at an age where computer use is so prevalent? Share your opinion/experience!


*picture credit

** this paper was written by Teija Nuutinen, Eva Roos, Carola Ray, Jari Villberg, Raili Välimaa, Mette Rasmussen, Bjørn Holstein, Emmanuelle Godeau, Francois Beck, Damien Légerand Jorma Tynjälä

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