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Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2015 Apr 28;9:11. doi: 10.1186/s13034-015-0043-x. eCollection 2015.

The relationship between physical activity, sedentary behaviour and mental health in Ghanaian adolescents.

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Department of Psychology, Methodist University College, Accra, Ghana.
Department of Psychology, University of Ghana, P.O. Box LG 84, Accra, Legon Ghana.



Research development is needed in physical activity and sedentary behaviour and their associations with mental health in young people. In Western countries the weather is a key contributing factor of sedentary behaviour in youth. The likely contributing factor of sedentary behaviour among African youth has not been explored. This study examined the association between sedentary behaviour and mental health in African young people.


Participants were 296 adolescents (150 males, 146 females) aged 13 to 18 years (mean = 14.85 years) living in Ghana. Participants' physical activity levels were assessed using the Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Adolescents (PAQ-A) and sedentary behaviour, using the Adolescents Sedentary Activity Questionnaire. Depression was assessed using the Children Depression Inventory and aspects of self-esteem were measured with the Physical Self-worth test and Body Image Silhouette test.


There was a significant negative correlation between physical activity and mental health independent of sedentary behaviour [depression (r =-0.78, p < 0.001); physical self-worth (r = 0.71, p < 0.001); body dissatisfaction (r =-0.76, p < 0.001)]. Moreover, sedentary behaviour was significantly associated with higher depression (r = 0.68, p < 0.001). Affluence was a significant contributing factor of sedentary behaviour in African young people [t (294) =-7.30, p < 0.001].


The present study has found that sedentary behaviour is highly prevalent among African adolescents especially among adolescents from affluent homes. Low levels of physical activity as well as sedentary behaviour is significantly associated with mental health problems among African youth, which is consistent with reports from studies among Western young people. The present research, therefore, contributes new information to the existing literature. Increased physical activities can improve the mental health of adolescents.


Anxiety; Depression; Mental health; Physical activity; Psychological distress; Sedentary behaviour; Stress; Young people

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