With lockdowns, health restrictions, and online classes, teens seemed to have spent more time in front of screens as compared to before. This could still last for months depending on the imposed health protocols, but the lack of extracurricular activities of teens today may cost them their mental health.

A study published in the journal Preventive Medicine, carried out by researchers with the University of British Columbia, revealed that teenagers who engage in extracurricular activities, other than face the screen the entire day, fared better in terms of their mental health. Between boys and girls, the latter showed higher benefits from extracurricular activities.

The study surveyed 28,712 seventh graders in British Columbia coming from 365 schools across 27 school districts. The researchers evaluated the recreational screen time of the students, which include watching television, browsing the internet, or playing video games, along with engagement in outdoor extracurricular activities. The responses of the participants were then compared to positive and negative health indicators.

The results of the study revealed that teens who engage in extracurricular activities were less likely to go for recreational screen-based activities. Teens who also enjoy these activities showed higher optimism and life satisfaction levels, with lower risks of depressive symptoms.

They also found that those who spend more time in front of screens like for more than two hours a day showed higher anxiety levels, depressive symptoms, and lower optimism. Girls' mental health was seen to be affected more significantly when they spent a long time in front of the screen than boys. More research is needed though to understand why girls are affected more than boys.

On the overall, the researchers noted that teen boys and girls showed better and stronger mental health when they participate in extracurricular activities and get less than two hours of screen time.

Eva Oberle, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health stated that their findings highlight how extracurricular activities prove to be an asset for the mental well-being of teenagers. She underscored the importance of being able to find ways for kids and teenagers to continue to engage in extracurricular activities and to reduce screen time amid the pandemic.

Extracurricular activities benefit teen's mental health. Photo: Pixabay