Covid-19: what if sitting more often made you more depressed?


One of the setbacks of confinement has been the increase in sedentary lifestyles among many people. A study found a link between time spent sitting and the likelihood of having higher symptoms of depression and anxiety.

sitting more often increases depression

Impact of confinement on physical activity and mental health

To investigate the association between confinement-induced activity changes during the 1time wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and mental health, a study was carried out on more than 2000 adults Americans, in more than 50 states.

On a 8 week period, from April 3 to June 3, 2020, the 2000 Americans answered an online survey. They had to compare their time spent in different activities (sitting, in front of a screen, exercising) between before and after the pandemic. They also specified their feelings in relation to their mental well-being (depression, anxiety, feeling of stress, loneliness.

A significant association between mental health and time spent sitting!

The results of the study showed a significant association between time spent sitting and depressive symptoms.

In addition, other important results were revealed:

  • Over time, people who sit for a long time are more stressed than those who sit infrequently.
  • People who spend the most time in front of a screen are more stressed than those who watch screens little at the start of the study. On the other hand, over time, there is no longer any difference between the 2 groups.
  • There is no difference between people who do a lot of sport and those who don’t.
  • Rapid changes in working conditions habits (sitting more often, due to confinement) can have a lasting impact on depressive symptoms.

To know ! : The positive mental health is a concept of mental well-being focused on positive constructs.

The study also shows that the mental state of the participants improved as the first confinement progressed, but:

  • Be sitting longer is associated with a slower improvement and limited depressive symptoms.
  • Time spent in front of screens and physical activity had little impact on improving mental health.

To note ! These results does not necessarily mean that increased sitting time causes depression. Indeed, it is possible that the most depressed people sit more, or that those who sit more become more depressed. There could also be another factor that the researchers haven’t identified.

Depressive states: women and young adults more affected

Women had higher depressive and anxiety symptoms than men, throughout the study

While it was the elderly who were most at risk of developing severe forms of Covid-19, it was the youngest populations who presented the most anxiety symptoms.

In summary, adults young people and women have been more impacted than the others in terms of mental well-being during the 1st confinement.

Faced with this observation, closer monitoring and psychological support of these populations would be an interesting avenue of prevention.

Take breaks to avoid getting depressed!

One of the solutions proposed by Professor Meyer at the initiative of the study, is to taking breaks between meetings, getting up and walking a few steps which may correspond to the meters to be traveled between meetings if they had been face-to-face. For people working from home, they can try walking around the block before and after their work day to mimic their usual pre-lockdown commute.

In addition to reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, these little tips can also help in the structure your days !

Dina H., Pharmacist


– Sitting more linked to increased feelings of depression, anxiety. Accessed November 30, 2021.
– High Sitting Time Is a Behavioral Risk Factor for Blunted Improvement in Depression Across 8 Weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic in April–May 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021.

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