Leisure Time Computer Use and Overweight Development in Young Adults – A Prospective Study

Sara Thomée; Lauren Lissner; Mats Hagberg; Anna Grimby-Ekman


BMC Public Health. 2015;15(839) 

In This Article


Background: The prevalence of overweight among Swedish young adults has nearly doubled since the 1980s. The weight increase has been paralleled by the increased use of computers at work, at school, and at leisure time. The aim was to examine leisure time computer use for gaming, and for emailing/chatting, in relation to overweight development in young adults.

Methods: A prospective cohort study with Swedish young adults (20–24 years at baseline) who responded to a questionnaire at baseline (n = 6735), and after 1 year (n = 3928) and 5 years (n = 2593). Exposure variables were average daily time spent on leisure time computer gaming and emailing/chatting. Logistic regression was performed for cross-sectional analyses with overweight (BMI ≥ 25) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30) as the outcomes, and for prospective analyses with new cases of overweight at the 1- and 5-year follow-ups. Change in BMI from baseline to 5 year-follow-up was analyzed with linear regression.

Results: There were cross-sectional and prospective associations between computer gaming and overweight (BMI ≥ 25) in women, after adjusting for age, occupation, physical activity, sleep, social support, and total computer use. For the men, only cross-sectional associations could be seen. Spending more than 2 h daily for emailing and chatting was related cross-sectionally to overweight in the women. No clear prospective associations were found for emailing/chatting and overweight development in either sex.

Conclusions: We have identified a new risk group for overweight development: young adult female computer gamers. Leisure time computer gaming was a prospective risk factor for overweight in women even after adjusting for demographic and lifestyle factors, but not in men. There were no clear prospective associations between computer use for emailing/chatting and overweight in either sex.