How sedentary behavior impacts well-being and quality of life

Sedentary behavior (SB) can be further classified as leisure-time, transport-related, or occupational SB. A recent BMC Public Health study explores the impact of different domains of SB on an individual’s quality of life and well-being.

Study: Associations between domains of sedentary behavior, well-being, and quality of life – a cross-sectional study. Image Credit: fizkes / Study: Associations between domains of sedentary behavior, well-being, and quality of life – a cross-sectional study. Image Credit: fizkes /

Studying the health impacts of SB

Reducing SB in crucial for the prevention of chronic diseases and mortality. Excessive SB has also been associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Since SB can accumulate in different ways, it is important to study the association between these domains, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. To date, there remains a lack of research on the association between mental health, quality of life, and prevalence of SB in adults.

SB is associated with significant heterogeneity, as older adults who are 65 years and older and younger adults between 18 and 24 years of age may have more leisure SB, whereas working adults could have more commuting and working SB. Thus, a better understanding of how different individual characteristics determine SB could improve current recommendations on SB and how these behaviors affect an individual’s health-related quality of life (HRQoL).

About the study

The current study assessed cross-sectional associations between SB-specific domains including leisure, occupational, and transport-related SB, and measures of quality of life and well-being. The researchers also investigated how these patterns differed between older and younger adults in a Portuguese university.

Study participants were recruited online throughout November 2021 and invited to complete a questionnaire. A total of 584 participants completed the questionnaire.

The International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was used to determine total SB, whereas separate questions were designed to capture the different domains of SB. The mean of ‘general life satisfaction’ (GLS) and ‘psychological well-being’ (PWB) measures were used to determine an individual’s well-being, whereas quality of life was self-reported through the Short Form Survey (SF-12).

Study findings

A negative association was observed between PWB and all domains of SB, whereas GLS was negatively correlated with transport-related and occupational SB. Occupational and leisure SB were negatively associated with mental health in the unadjusted model.

When covariates were considered, these relationships were attenuated, except for the persistent negative association observed between GLS and occupational SB.

SB reduces physical activity (PA), which subsequently reduces the incidence of conditions that lead to poor well-being. This could be due to the mediation of biological factors, such as the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), during exercise. SB has also been linked to social isolation in adolescents and older people.

Leisure-time SB was also negatively associated with PWB in young adults; however, these associations were not observed with other SB domains. This may be due to increased leisure SB that is often accompanied by reduced PA, which is associated with higher levels of PWB.

Younger adults also spend a significant amount of time in front of their computer or phone screens on social media. Excessive social media use has been shown to negatively impact PWB, with these effects largely dependent on how, why, and with whom social media is being used.

In adults 25 years of age and older, GLS and mental health were negatively associated with occupational SB after adjusting for covariate factors, whereas the relationship between PWB and transport-related SB was negative in this age group.

Leisure time SB and well-being outcomes were not correlated. This observation can be attributed to these adult participants reporting less time spent in leisure activities at 170 minutes each week as compared to young adults with an average of 269 minutes of leisure activity each week.


The study findings indicate that SB is harmful to well-being and an individual’s quality of life. Nevertheless, additional research is needed to determine the precise domain in which SB accumulation occurs.

Current recommendations for SB primarily advise individuals to minimize time sitting in front of screens and sit less. However, further research in this area could refine these recommendations to be more domain-oriented and specific to certain age groups.

Leisure SB appears to be particularly harmful for younger adults, whereas occupational SB was more detrimental in working-age adults. Future experimental studies are needed confirm these observations.

Journal reference:
  • Teno, S.C., Silva, M.N. & Júdice, P.B. (2024) Associations between domains of sedentary behavior, well-being, and quality of life – a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 24; 1756. doi:10.1186/s12889-024-19252-9
Dr. Priyom Bose

Written by

Dr. Priyom Bose

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.


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