Physical activity and recreational screen time change among adolescents in Canada: Examining the impact of COVID-19 in worsening inequity


The purpose of this study was to assess if sub-populations of adolescents in Canada (i.e., race/ethnicity, sex/gender, and socioeconomic status [SES]) experienced a larger change in physical activity and screen time between the 2019–2020 (pre-pandemic) and the 2020–2021 (mid-pandemic) school years. Longitudinally linked data from pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic school years of a prospective cohort study of secondary school students in Canada (n = 8209) were used for these analyses. Multivariable regression modelling tested the main effects of race/ethnicity, sex/gender, and SES on changes in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and screen time duration as well as adherence to Canada’s 24-h Movement Guidelines. Overall between groups difference were assessed using type II analysis of deviance tests. Interactions between variables of interest were subsequently tested with a series of regression models compared to the main effects model using likelihood-ratio test. Post-hoc comparisons found Male participants’ MVPA time decreased less compared to their female counterparts (M [95% CI] = −16.3 [−13.5, −19.2] min/day), but also reported greater increases in screen time compared to females (23.7 [14.7, 32.8] min/day) during the same period. MVPA in White participants decreased less than Asian participants (−10.7 [−19.5, −1.9] min/day) with a similar non-significant pattern observed in Black and Latin participants. Adolescents in higher SES categories fared better on adherence to MVPA (highest vs. lowest OR = 1.41 [0.97, 2.06]) and screen time recommendations(highest vs. lowest AOR = 3.13 [0.91, 11.11]). Results support the hypothesis that existing inequitable sociodemographic differences in MVPA participation and screen time have worsened throughout the pandemic.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Jean-Philippe Chaput

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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