“Goldilocks days” for adolescent mental health: movement behaviour combinations for well-being, anxiety and depression by gender.

Among adolescents, gender groups who report less healthful movement behaviours also tend to experience lower mental health status. Adolescent girls often report lower levels of physical activity (ParticipACTION, 2022Prince, Roberts, Melvin, Butler, & Thompson, 2020) and tend to experience higher rates of clinical depression and anxiety (Dyer & Wade, 2012Reisner, Katz-Wise, Gordon, Corliss, & Austin, 2016) and lower states of positive well-being compared to boys (Campbell, Bann, & Patalay, 2021). In adolescents, accruing adequate sleep and MVPA while limiting screen time and other sedentary behaviours is associated with lower severity of illness symptoms, especially feelings of depression and anxiety, and greater feelings of positive well-being (Duncan et al., 2022bRodriguez-Ayllon et al., 2019). Part of the mental health gender gap between boys and girls may be attributable to lower rates of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (Halliday, Kern, & Turnbull, 2019). Paradoxically, adolescent boys simultaneously tend to report higher amounts of screen time than adolescent girls (Leatherdale & Ahmed, 2011; ParticipACTION, 2022), which is often considered a less healthy use of time than MVPA or sleep. Gender differences in the types of screen use (Mougharbel et al., 2023) may be one explanation if screen time is less deleterious among boys.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Mark S. Tremblay

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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