Teens Screen Time Affects Bone Density

Bone Density

Spending considerable time in front of a computer screen or television affects bone mineral density, according to a new study on teens. For adolescent boys, the impact is negative and can lead to osteoporosis later on in life. For teenaged girls, the results are different.

To study whether greater computer use was associated with lower bone mineral density, Arctic University of Norway researchers reviewed data on 463 girls and 484 boys, aged 15 to 18. In  fact, ninety percent of the first-year high school students in the region participated. The participants underwent bone density DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) tests. The teens were also asked about their habits, including time spent in front of the television or computer, and levels of physical activity.

As one would expect, the researchers found that the boys accrued more screen time than the girls. However, the effect on their bodies was markedly different.

The more time male teens spent in front of a computer and TV screen negatively affected their bone mineral density by lowering it. Those who racked up considerable screen time also had higher body mass index (BMI).

For girls, the results were markedly different. The girls who spent four to six hours in front of screens each day actually had higher bone density than those who spent less than 1.5 hours in front of TV or computer screens per day.

The study results were presented today at the World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases, which was held in Seville, Spain. The research findings also appear in Osteoporosis International’s April issue.

Osteoporosis, or thinning of bones, can result in fractures. Prevention includes maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active, as well as getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

While many think of osteoporosis as a disease for old women, factors for osteoporosis include aging, smoking, being female, being underweight, low sex hormones, menopause, and some medications. Yes, osteoporosis affects women far more than men. About 80 percent of osteoporosis patients are women. However, that means that in the U.S. alone, 2 million men have osteoporosis and that group is made up of mainly older men who did not grow up in front of computers or video games. The study implies the percentage of men afflicted could go up in the future.

Boys’ skeletons usually grow continuously through their teenage years and reach their maximum strength in early adulthood. The research study findings for boys clearly show that a sedentary lifestyle during the teen years can impact bone density at a time when they should be acquiring their peak bone mass, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Anne Winther, from the Arctic University of Norway. This negative impact can lead to osteoporosis and fracture risks later in their lives.

The researchers noted that although the study showed the association between teens’ screen time and their bone density levels, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. They also pointed out the need for further exploration and studies on the results for girls.

By Dyanne Weiss

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