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Screen-based activities and physical complaints among adolescents from the Nordic countries

Torbjørn Torsheim1*, Lilly Eriksson2, Christina W Schnohr3, Fredrik Hansen4, Thoroddur Bjarnason5 and Raili Välimaa6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

2 Swedish National Institute of Health, Östersund, Sweden

3 Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

4 Research Centre for Health Promotion, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

5 Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Akureyri, Akureyri, Iceland

6 Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:324  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-324

Published: 9 June 2010



A positive association between time spent on sedentary screen-based activities and physical complaints has been reported, but the cumulative association between different types of screen-based activities and physical complaints has not been examined thoroughly.


The cross-sectional association between screen-based activity and physical complaints (backache and headache) among students was examined in a sample of 31022 adolescents from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Greenland, as part of the Health behaviour in school-aged children 2005/06 (HBSC) study. Daily hours spent on screen-based activities and levels of physical complaints were assessed using self-reports.


Logistic regression analysis indicated that computer use, computer gaming and TV viewing contributed uniquely to prediction of weekly backache and headache. The magnitude of associations was consistent across types of screen based activities, and across gender.


The observed associations indicate that time spent on screen-based activity is a contributing factor to physical complaints among young people, and that effects accumulate across different types of screen-based activities.