Reduced physical activity amid Covid impacts mental health: study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 12, 2021

Students at greater risk of developing depression due to shifts in lifestyle habits

A new study has found that 61 per cent of university students were at risk of developing clinical depression, twice the rate prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The study was carried out by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers stated that the surge in depression rate came due to the dramatic shifts in lifestyle habits.

The report noted that the US spends $200 billion every year to fight mental health issues. However, the ongoing pandemic has worsened the condition of those struggling with depression or anxiety.

Physical inactivity during Covid-19 may lead to rise in mortality, warns Study

The study reported significant changes in physical activity, sleep, and time of the surveyed students at the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak. It found that disruptions to physical activity contributed as a leading risk factor for depression.

Notably, the researchers stated that exercising significantly lowered the risk of depression while physical inactivity spiked the chances of it.

Covid-19 dramatically altered personal habits, largely for the worse: Study

College students at risk

“There is an alarming rise in the rate of anxiety and depression among young adults, especially among college students,” said Silvia Saccardo, assistant professor in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at CMU and senior author on the paper.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis in this vulnerable population,” she added.

For the study, Saccardo and her colleagues, Osea Giuntella, Kelly Hyde, and Sally Sadoff, analysed data collected from 682 college students who used a smartphone app and a Fitbit wearable tracker for spring 2019, fall 2019, and spring 2020.

The team found that participants who maintained healthy habits prior to the pandemic — scheduled physical activity and active social life — were at an elevated risk for depression as the pandemic raged.

The researchers noted that a decline in physical activity is the leading risk factor for diminished mental health. However, restoration of physical activity was not met with a rebound in mental well-being.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Published on February 12, 2021
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