Accumulating evidence suggests that, independent of physical activity levels, sedentary behaviours are associated with increased risk of cardio-metabolic disease, all-cause mortality, and a variety of physiological and psychological problems. Therefore, the purpose of this systematic review is to determine the relationship between sedentary behaviour and health indicators in school-aged children and youth aged 5-17 years. Online databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO), personal libraries and government documents were searched for relevant studies examining time spent engaging in sedentary behaviours and six specific health indicators (body composition, fitness, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, self-esteem, pro-social behaviour and academic achievement). 232 studies including 983,840 participants met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. Television (TV) watching was the most common measure of sedentary behaviour and body composition was the most common outcome measure. Qualitative analysis of all studies revealed a dose-response relation between increased sedentary behaviour and unfavourable health outcomes. Watching TV for more than 2 hours per day was associated with unfavourable body composition, decreased fitness, lowered scores for self-esteem and pro-social behaviour and decreased academic achievement. Meta-analysis was completed for randomized controlled studies that aimed to reduce sedentary time and reported change in body mass index (BMI) as their primary outcome. In this regard, a meta-analysis revealed an overall significant effect of -0.81 (95% CI of -1.44 to -0.17, p = 0.01) indicating an overall decrease in mean BMI associated with the interventions. There is a large body of evidence from all study designs which suggests that decreasing any type of sedentary time is associated with lower health risk in youth aged 5-17 years. In particular, the evidence suggests that daily TV viewing in excess of 2 hours is associated with reduced physical and psychosocial health, and that lowering sedentary time leads to reductions in BMI.
Based on this systematic review of 232 studies, sedentary behaviour (assessed primarily through increased TV viewing) for more than 2 hours per day was associated with unfavourable body composition, decreased fitness, lowered scores for self-esteem and pro-social behaviour and decreased academic achievement in school-aged children and youth (5-17 years). This was true for all study designs, across all countries, using both direct and indirect measurements, and regardless of participant sample size. All studies examining risk factors for MS and CVD disease reported that increased sedentary time was associated with increased health risk; however, the included studies examined a wide range of risk factors, and thus there was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions on the relationship for metabolic risk as a whole.
Our study has limitations, including the types of outcome measurements and analyses reported in the primary studies and primary study quality. The scope of this review was large and included a great deal of health indicators and measurement tools. A more detailed meta-analysis would have allowed us to estimate the overall effect sizes for each outcome. However, due to the heterogeneity of the data, it was impossible to complete such analysis. Furthermore, some studies had missing information on participant characteristics making it impossible to determine if basic demographics act as a confounder for the relationship between sedentary behaviour and health. Many studies also grouped their variables into tertiles, or groups that also took into account physical activity level. Although it was still possible to ascertain information regarding the association between level of sedentary behaviour and health indicators, it made it very difficult to compare the information across studies. Similarly, very few studies measured time spent being sedentary directly (i.e. with direct observation or accelerometry). Previous work [269, 270] has shown significant differences between direct and indirect measures of physical activity; similar work needs to be completed with respect to sedentary behaviour to gain a better understanding of possible biases in previous studies. Indirect measurements of sedentary behaviour often lead to grouping for analyses. This may lead to bias in the results of the systematic review as many studies arbitrarily grouped their participants as ''high users" if they watched more than 2 hours of television per day. This could perhaps be falsely leading us to conclude that 2 hours is the critical cut-point or threshold. Further work using direct (i.e. accelerometer) measures of sedentary behaviour and screen time as continuous variables will help to clarify if a cut-point of 2 hours is in fact biased.
This systematic review summarizes the current evidence examining the relationship between sedentary behaviours and a series of health indicators. It was determined that increased sedentary time was associated with negative health outcomes in both boys and girls; this was true across all study designs with the majority of studies (85.8%) reporting similar relationships. The majority of current work has focused on television viewing and body composition and suggests that children and youth should watch less than 2 hours of TV per day during their discretionary time. Furthermore, children and youth should try to minimize the time they spend engaging in other sedentary pursuits throughout the day (e.g. playing video games, using the computer for non-school work or prolonged sitting). This work can be used to inform the development of evidence-based sedentary behaviour recommendations for children and youth.
The crime data used in our analyses were based on postcode areas to eliminate the bias introduced by changes in suburb boundaries over the years of interest in the study. The population size of the Boolaroo postcode (c. 10,000) was substantially larger than the population size of the suburb (c. 1000). This mismatch in population size potentially limits interpretation of the effects of lead in air on aggressive crime in Boolaroo in particular (i.e., where this mismatch in postcode versus local area populations was most pronounced). Importantly, as shown above, the conclusions of the study are largely unchanged even when Boolaroo is excluded from the analysis. Given the consistency of the data from the other five suburbs, as well as the state and national data analysed in the original study, we remain confident in the robustness of the findings. 2b1af7f3a8