Montreal’s public health department is calling for better balance and preventive measures when it comes to the recreational screen time of adults and children.
A study conducted by the department found that 21 per cent of Grade 6 students and 16 per cent of adults in Montreal use screens on a leisurely basis for more than four hours per day. The report describes intensive screen use as “fairly widespread” in Montreal.
“The Montreal population, whose use exceeds four hours a day, is at a disadvantage in terms of health,” the report states. “The observed differences are pronounced for several indicators, including those related to poor sleep quality, general poor health, high psychological distress and dissatisfaction with one’s life.”
As part of the study, the researchers looked at how much time Montrealers spend on average in front of their screens. It also looked at the links between the public’s health and screen times.
While the authors of the report specifically state they cannot establish causal links, they add that the health of those who use screens intensively is “significantly worse.”
The public health department says the Grade 6 students whose recreational screen time exceeds four hours per day face several risks, including a higher risk of dropping out of school and not getting enough sleep.
When it comes to adults, researchers say the risks associated with intense use include difficulty sleeping and more psychological distress. They also face dissatisfaction with relationships, finance and themselves.
Montreal public health officials looked at 13,380 Grade 6 students at public and private schools in the English and French systems. The study found that 60 per cent of Grade 6 students have less than two hours of recreational screen time a day, which is in line with recommendations. A total of 19 per cent use screens leisurely between two and four hours per day.
When it comes to adults, the study looked at 2,000 Montrealers. Researchers found 45 per cent use their screens less than two hours per day and 39 per cent use them between two and four hours daily.
The public health department recommends the creation of initiatives based on prevention and promoting a healthy balance with screen time. It also suggests an in-depth look at how Montrealers spend their time in front of screens — such as the context or medium — in order to conduct followups on the impact of screen time on their health.