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A sedentary lifestyle with too much time spent sitting in front of screens - such as watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet - is harming children's well-being and increasing their anxiety, according to a new briefing paper from Public Health England (PHE).
In the paper, titled "How healthy behaviour supports children's well-being," the PHE, a new executive agency of the UK's Department of Health, says too much screen time is having a negative effect on children by reducing self-worth, self-esteem and levels of self-reported happiness.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at PHE, told the press:
"There are many complex factors that affect a child's well-being such as the wider environment they live in and their social, financial and family circumstances, but there are also some very simple things we can all do every day with our children to help improve their health and well-being."
PHE says more than 7 in 10 youngsters in the UK fail to meet the minimum recommended level of 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and just over 2 in 10 do more than the recommended minimum, placing the UK in tenth position out of 29 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
The PHE briefing paper draws on new research, including evidence from academic studies and a new report from NatCen Social Research produced for the Department of Health, titled "Predicting wellbeing."
The NatCen report re-analyzed data from a number of large studies, such as the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), Understanding Society (USoc), and the Health Survey for England (HSE), and tested a wide range of factors - spanning most aspects of life - as potential predictors of subjective well-being.
It found, among other things, that:
The PHE briefing paper's release coincides with a new NHS Change4Life campaign geared toward helping families use the back-to-school period as an opportunity to encourage youngsters to reduce screen time and adopt healthier habits.
Called "Smart Restart," the campaign lists 5 simple things families can do in the first 6 weeks of the new academic year. These are:
Families can sign up on the Smart-Restart section of theChange4Life website to get ideas and tools to help them set goals and adopt the healthier habits.
The PHE briefing explains how children who spend more time being physically active tend to concentrate better in class and enjoy better relationships with their schoolfriends.
Children with a less sedentary lifestyle also have lower levels of worry, anxiety and depression.
As in Smart-Restart, the PHE paper makes the point that even small simple changes can shift a lifestyle from sedentary to active.
Lil Caprani, Director of Communications, Policy and Campaigns at The Children's Society, says this message also came through in the survey they did for their Good Childhood Report, where they asked children about their well-being.
They found a strong link between being active and being happy, and while quite sporty things like cycling, swimming or playing football all had a clear relationship, as one might expect, simple things like just going for walks were also linked with higher well-being.Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
How healthy behaviour supports children's wellbeing (pdf); Public Health England, London, August 2013.
Predicting wellbeing (pdf); Jenny Chanfreau, Cheryl Lloyd, Christos Byron, Caireen Roberts, Rachel Craig, Danielle De Feo, Sally McManus, prepared for the Department of Health; NatCen Social Research, London, August 2013.
Additional source: PHE press release 28 August 2013.
Visit our Pediatrics / Children's Health category page for the latest news on this subject.
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10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265374>
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