Published: 29-03-2019 09:15 | Updated: 15-05-2019 15:05

Sitting less and moving more reduces risk of depression

Two pair of legs in sneakers walking on a pavement.

Hi Mats Hallgren, researcher at the Department of Public Health Sciences. You are first author of an article recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry about links between sedentary behaviour and mental health. What are the most important results from the study?

Mats Hallgren.
Mats Hallgren, researcher at the Department of Public Health Sciences.

"Previous research has shown that sedentary behaviour - essentially, too much sitting - increases the risk of poor physical health and pre-mature mortality. Our new study shows that some types of sedentary behaviour also increase the risk of mental ill-health.

We found that replacing short durations of mentally-passive sedentary behaviours, such as watching TV, with mentally-active behaviours, or preferably with light or moderate-intensity physical activity, significantly reduced the risk of depression onset in adults.”

How could this knowledge contribute to the improvement of human health?

“Most adults spend about 8-9 hours per day sitting. This is a common daily behaviour - especially among researchers! The message is pretty simple, people should sit less, move more, and take regular breaks from prolonged sitting. This will help to reduce the physical and mental health risks associated with prolonged sitting.”

How did you perform the study?

“We conducted a 13-year longitudinal study involving over 40,000 Swedish adults. Baseline questions about sedentary behaviour and health were linked to clinician diagnoses of depression up to 2010. In the analyses, we adjusted for factors known to influence the association between sedentary behaviour and depression, such as body mass, somatic health, etc."


Cross-sectional and prospective relationships of passive and mentally active sedentary behaviours and physical activity with depression.
Hallgren M, Nguyen TT, Owen N, Stubbs B, Vancampfort D, Lundin A, et al
Br J Psychiatry 2019 Mar;():1-7

The study is an international collaboration involving researchers from KI and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia.

Project leaders was Professor Ylva Trolle Lagerros, Department of Medicine, Solna and Professor Rino Bellocco, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. The data used in the study comes from the Swedish National March Cohort.